Wed, Nov 07, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Drone threat cannot be ignored

By Yao Chung-yuan 姚中原

The 10th Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival was held last week. As part of the celebrations, organizers arranged a light display by 100 drones for the four-day event in the skies over Victoria Harbour.

On the evening of Oct. 27, the performance was sabotaged when — it is thought — the drones’ GPS signal was jammed and more than 40 plunged into the water below, causing significant damage to the equipment and necessitating the cancelation of the display.

It was fortunate that the drones fell into the water: had they crashed into the crowds below, the repercussions would have been unthinkable.

This is not the first time that drones have been jammed or damaged; another incident occurred on Sept. 8 duing the Harvest and Hongze Lake Hairy Crab Festival in Weian, China.

The local government, seeking to prevent drones being used by private individuals to sneak footage of the event, dispatched public security personnel armed with new anti-drone guns who managed to zap two drones from the skies, bringing them down into the lake.

The emergence of these new meter-long guns, boasting a range of 70m and capable of emitting rapid bursts of electromagnetic radiation, made quite an impression.

Over the past few years, drones have become quite a common sight. In many cases, all that is needed is a smartphone to control them remotely.

The new technology has a wide range of applications, from simple toys to a more serious tool for photographing and filming from the air, surveying local landscapes and topography, or even searching for land mines.

Unfortunately, they can also be put to more nefarious uses, such as espionage, criminal activities or launching attacks.

There was a suspected assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as he was delivering a speech at a military parade on Aug. 4.

Opposition groups allegedly used a number of aerial drones fitted with explosive devices to attack Maduro. He escaped unharmed, but several members of the armed forces were less fortunate, sustaining serious injuries.

Should these technologies — either the drones, armed with explosives, or advanced weaponry designed to disrupt, damage or disable them, such as the anti-drone guns — fall into the hands of ill-meaning individuals or terrorist groups, they could be used to intimidate, maim or kill.

Fortunately, the intentional jamming and destruction of drones, such as in Hong Kong last week, has yet to occur in Taiwan.

However, national security agencies must be vigilant about the threat these technologies pose and explore the best ways to deal with and guard against them.

Yao Chung-yuan is a former deputy director of the Ministry of National Defense’s Strategic Planning Division.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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