Undated file photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy shows a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle conducting tests over Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
Credits: REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Erik Hildebrandt/Northrop Grumman/Handout
With Department of Homeland Security officials watching, the small group of techies from the University of Texas at Austin's Radionavigation Laboratory showed the security experts how to mimic a dummy GPS controller, aim it at the drone and start controlling it. It worked within minutes, and the students had control of the unmanned aircraft.
For a nation that has an exponentially increasing number of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles cruising its skies, the demonstration was sobering.
For privacy watchdogs, the fact that a domestic drone could so easily become a remote controlled missile is only one of myriad concerns over the use of the flying robots.
"This is a concern because they can be taken over, hacked into, what could happen if the controls were ceded?" said Micheal Vonn, policy director of the
B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
She warns that the technology is a very powerful tool for the U.S. to watch us.
"We know that surveillance is always introduced in the narrowest possible, most benign form."
because privacy laws can change.
Domestic drones are increasingly common in the U.S., and recently some countries and police departments that use them are considering adding tasers and tear gas to the unmanned, constantly watching aircraft.
Earlier this year in North Dakota, police used a predator drone to help storm Rodney Brossart's 3,000-acre farm and arrest him. Brossart allegedly
refused to return six cows that had wandered on to his property and is accused of chasing police off of his property with a rifle. He is the first American citizen to be arrested with the help of a drone.