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Critical Infrastructure News

In the last few years, drones have flown over, and in some cases landed within, restricted areas across our country—with notable incidents in our nation’s capital. In 2015, a quadcopter crashed on the grounds of the White House. Later that same year, a drone crash-landed on the White House Ellipse, near the South Lawn. Though benign hobbyists often use them, these small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) can be exploited for any number of illegal activities, thereby posing a significant threat to facilities related to critical infrastructure and national security. This is why Counter-UAS (C-UAS) technology is so important.

The popularity of sUAS, or drones, has grown as the cost has become more affordable. Their nefarious capabilities continue to increase, as well. They can attain high speeds and move in three dimensions with the potential to carry dangerous payloads, smuggle contraband, and conduct illicit surveillance. The applications are endless, which creates a formidable challenge for our national security agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).

Adaptation is key to ensuring resilience. S&T is supporting C-UAS research, testing, training and evaluation across multiple DHS missions and components. A number of tests have been executed over the last year and more are planned in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), Federal Protective Services (FPS), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Read more: Department of Homeland Security

The Federal Aviation Administration recently issued final rules requiring remote identification of Unmanned Aerial Systems (“UAS” aka drones) and allowing flight over people, moving vehicles, and at night under certain conditions. The final rules went into effect on April 21, 2021. 

The Remote ID rule requires the UAS and its control center, or place of takeoff, to be remotely identifiable while the UAS is in flight. The Operations Over People rule allows pilots to fly UAS over people and at night, if the UAS has appropriate anti-collision lighting. The rule splits the various types of UAS into four categories based on the risk level of flying over people. UAS under 0.55 pounds are considered the safest and may fly over people if the pilot complies with the Remote ID Rule and the UAS does not have any exposed rotating parts. UAS over 0.55 pounds are split into three other categories based on UAS operating requirements. All UAS pilots must complete a training course and pass an updated knowledge test to use this new rule. Prior to these changes, a pilot had to request and apply for a waiver to fly at night or over people.

Read more: National Law Review