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The Pentagon Takes Aim at Bomb-Carrying Consumer Drones

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They’re cheap, they’re light, and they can carry a small bomb: The commercial drone is essentially a new terror gadget for organizations such as Hezbollah, Islamic State, or anyone else looking to wreak havoc on a budget.

“That’s the same quad copter you can get on Groupon or go down to Sam’s Club and buy for $400,” U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller said last week at a Washington forum on future warfare. The elusive nature of small drones is one reason the federal government has designated the District of Columbia a “national defense airspace” and prohibited drone flights there. A recent spate of drone-related incidents, including one last year in which a drone crashed on the White House lawn, probably didn’t help, either.

But the problem is no longer about enthusiasts with a bad sense of direction. Weaponized to various degrees of sophistication, such unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now being used in the Syrian civil war and along parts of Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel, where Hezbollah holds sway.

“There has been an increasing concern in the military and a wider acceptance of how pernicious this problem is going to be, moving forward,” says Andrew Metrick, an intelligence security analyst at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. “From a U.S. and allies perspective, we haven’t had to think about how to fight where we don’t have total aerial supremacy.”

The U.S. military has begun studying small drones and how best to respond. Earlier this month, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a request for ideas on how to protect troops from the new threat; it is planning a workshop next month. “We’re looking for scalable, modular, and affordable approaches that could be fielded within the next three to four years and could rapidly evolve with threat and tactical advancements,” a DARPA program manager, Jean-Charles Ledé, said in astatement. – READ MORE

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