Monday, November 8, 2021

A terrorist drone attack inside the USA


I've been warning about the threat of terrorist-operated drones (unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV's) for almost a decade.  Some have shared my concern;  others have been scornful, dismissive or downright rude about it.  Nevertheless, as technology marches on, drones have become the weapon of choice for criminals in various fields, and unidentified drones have sparked security alerts in several instances.  It's by no means impossible that those unidentified drones over military bases, nuclear power stations, etc. were reconnaissance efforts.  Who's behind them is as yet unknown.

We can add to the list of drone attacks an attempt to shut down a power substation in Pennsylvania.

U.S. officials believe that a DJI Mavic 2, a small quadcopter-type drone, with a thick copper wire attached underneath it via nylon cords was likely at the center of an attempted attack on a power substation in Pennsylvania last year. An internal U.S. government report issued last month says this is the first time such an incident has been officially assessed as a possible drone attack on energy infrastructure in the United States, but that this is likely to become more commonplace as time goes on. This is a reality The War Zone has sounded the alarm about in the past, including when we were first to report on a still-unexplained series of drone flights near the Palo Verde nuclear powerplant in Arizona in 2019.

. . .

"This is the first known instance of a modified UAS [unmanned aerial system] likely being used in the United States to specifically target energy infrastructure," the JIB states. "We assess that a UAS recovered near an electrical substation was likely intended to disrupt operations by creating a short circuit to cause damage to transformers or distribution lines, based on the design and recovery location."

ABC and other outlets have reported that the JIB says that this assessment is based in part on other unspecified incidents involving drones dating back to 2017. As already noted, The War Zone previously reported on another worrisome set of incidents in 2019 around Arizona's Palo Verde Generating Station, the largest nuclear power plant in the United States in terms of its electrical output. In the process of reporting that story, we uncovered other reported drone flights that prompted security concerns near the Limerick Generating Station nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania earlier that year. 

. . .

Beyond the copper wire strung up underneath it, the drone reportedly had its camera and internal memory card removed. Efforts were taken to remove any identifying markings, indicating efforts by the operator or operators to conceal the identifies and otherwise make it difficult to trace the drone's origins. 

. . .

Regardless, the incident only underscores the ever-growing risks that small drones pose to critical infrastructure, as well as other civilian and military targets, in the United States. If this modified drone did pose a real risk, it would also highlight the low barrier to entry to at least attempt to carry out such attacks. New DJI Mavic 2s can be purchased online right now for between $2,000 and $4,000. [Edited to note:  one model is available for under $800 at the time of writing.]

The technology is so readily available that non-state actors around the world, from terrorists in the Middle East to drug cartels in Mexico, are already employing commercial quad and hexacopter-type drones armed with improvised explosive payloads on a variety of targets on and off more traditional battlefields. This includes attempted assassinations of high-profile individuals.

There's more at the link.

The USA has employed weapons to "short out" electricity networks for almost 30 years.  This attack looks to have been an attempt to do the same using relatively low technology, available to anybody.

Oh - and in case anyone is still unconvinced about the ability of drones to threaten life, the Iraqi prime minister has just survived a drone attack.  They've become an almost routine threat in the Middle East, with "weaponized" civilian hobbyist drones having been used as weapons for almost a decade.  I have little doubt the same will happen in some parts of the USA before long.



Bob NC said...

This is one of the things covered in the excelent book,"The ABCs of EMPs"by Jeffrey Yago...that it's not necessary for an enemy to detonate a high altitude nuke to bring down the U.S. power grid system. A coordinated attack by people on substations can bring down the entire grid system.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Peter;

Betcha it is "Greenies" doing the attack on the power stations, it fits their M.O. the FBI will not admit that because they are fellow travelers mind you, Same schools and all, makes them uncomfortable. THe use of drones in a 4GW scenario is something to think about in the future for the rest of us if it becomes necessary.

ruralcounsel said...

Every civilian operated drone I've ever encountered was gawdawful noisy. I suppose that doesn't totally make them useless as offensive weaponry, it sure does limit them. When they become silent, then the real fun and games begin.

The Guy said...

According to a YouTube video from The History Guy last week, the UK used ballons stringing metal cables against the Germans in WW2. Their existence and effectiveness has only recently been declassified.

tsquared said...

There will be more with additional targets. Evil people will do evil things.

Quad copter drones are inexpensive. Tannerite and gunpowder isn't that expensive and are finally getting back in stock. Plans for a relay that fires a high voltage spark are easily found on the internet.

MNW said...

One only needs to look at the recent Armenian-Azerbijan war to see the effectiveness of dones.this has been coming for a long time.

boron said...

just how stable are these platforms; are they stable enough for a gyroscopically mounted 24' barrel firing a single '06?

Pointing&Laughing said...

Yes. Go to YouTube

Aesop said...


We've been vigorously assured by The World's Foremost Expert On All Drone Technology EVER! that any use of a drone for illegal activity is beyond the realm of possibility, and therefore all just your wild imagination.

Stop spreading such fairytales, or he will taunt you a second time.

And he probably still can't figure out why his replies at my site go to my auto-delete app without ever being seen.

Brighter folks will recognize that drones are tools, and like all such, will inevitably be weaponized, officially and unofficially, until such activity becomes perfected, and bears fruit.