Drones Can Be Used by Terrorists and Criminals Too
Americans know their government uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, on military and intelligence missions from surveillance to assassination. But drones are no longer the sole domain of the military, and just as with many new technologies, they can easily fall into the wrong hands.U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE / REUTERS A scale model of a U.S. Navy F-86 Sabre fighter plane, similar to a device constructed by Massachusetts resident Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, who was accused of plotting attacks on the U.S. Pentagon and Capitol by using a remote-controlled aircraft filled with plastic explosives. The pictured aircraft, from a photo released by the U.S. Justice Department, is not the device constructed by the defendant.
Robotic machines — including drones, which are basically robots that fly — are already policing international borders, exploring deep-sea shipwrecks, repairing undersea cables and vacuuming living rooms. Robots fly, roll, swim and walk. Some carry guns and bombs. Others have superhuman strength, endurance and sensory perception. A future in which they commit crimes may yet seem like the realm of science fiction, but it is closer than you think. Criminal organizations are early adopters of technology, and some have already used UAVs and other forms of robotics to violate the law while reducing their risk of arrest and apprehension.
In Latin America, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been collaborating with narcocartels to create remote-controlled drug-smuggling submarines capable of transporting 1,800 kilos of cocaine more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) without refueling. In 2011, an al-Qaeda affiliate named Rezwan Ferdaus planned to launch an attack on the Pentagon and Capitol buildings using a remote-controlled drone aircraft laden with explosives until the FBI intercepted the plot. And just last year, criminals piloted a $600 remote-controlled quadcopter over a Brazilian prison fence to deliver cell phones to the incarcerated, as was also done in a 2009 attempt involving a drone to deliver drugs to prisoners in the U.K. A 50-ft. (15 m) electric fence may keep criminals in, but won’t keep a UAV drone out.