FBI Agents Swarmed With Drones During a Hostage Rescue Operation

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The FBI isn’t an agency known for sharing their secrets, but they are reservedly discussing one recent operation that went awry. It happened in the US, outside of a city. A tea of FBI agents were observing suspects, when they unexpectedly became the targets. Drones, several of them, buzzed over their position. Not only were they spotted, the agents were distracted.

“Soon they heard the buzz of small drones — and then the tiny aircraft were all around them, swooping past in a series of ‘high-speed low passes at the agents in the observation post to flush them,’ the head of the agency’s operational technology law unit told attendees of the AUVSI Xponential conference,” writes Defense One.

The agents had not prepared for the diversion. They were so focused on the drones, which were obviously filming their position and movements, that they lost track of the targets.

The FBI isn’t sharing much more than that, though they are talking about the need for new training and tactics to face criminals who are increasingly equipped with these sorts of technological advantages.

Joe Mazel, speaking on behalf of the agency, explained that “the suspects had backpacked the drones to the area in anticipation of the FBI’s arrival. Not only did they buzz the hostage rescue team, they also kept a continuous eye on the agents, feeding video to the group’s other members via YouTube.”

“They had people fly their own drones up and put the footage to YouTube so that the guys who had cellular access could go to the YouTube site and pull down the video,” he said.

This kind of intelligence gathering is spreading to other criminal activities, also. Mazel noted that some groups are monitoring police movements, keeping drones in the air above police stations to keep an eye on “who is going in and out of the facility and who might be co-operating with police.”

“In the Border Patrol,” Andrew Scharnweber, associate chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, “we have struggled with scouts, human scouts that come across the border. They’re stationed on various mountaintops near the border and they would scout … to spot law enforcement and radio down to their counterparts to go around us. That activity has effectively been replaced by drones.”

At issue here is a unique problem. The technology is evolving so fast that tactics and counter-measures are unable to keep pace. That, though, pales in comparison to the slow pace of regulation. The criminals, though, are far more concerned with the first than they are with the second.