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Acting on a $1,000 dare from the US government, a group of Texas researchers managed to seize control of a flying drone, science and news sites reported this week.
Popular Science reported the University of Texas at Austin team captured the drone on a dare from no less than the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The drone itself is the property of the University, acquired for research purposes.
"They managed to do it through spoofing, a technique where a signal from hackers pretends to be the same as one sent to the drone's GPS," PopSci.com said.
It noted spoofing was reportedly used to bring down a US drone that crashed in Iran last year.
PopSci.com quoted the researchers as saying that with more drones likely to fly in the skies as the technology becomes more widely used, countering spoofing may top the DHS' priority list.
A separate article on RT.com said the team used $1,000 in parts to build the equipment to take control of the unmanned aerial vehicle owned by the college —right under the supervision of the DHS.
Professor Todd Humphreys, leader of the group from the University of Texas at Austin Radionavigation Laboratory, was quoted as telling Fox News that they managed to spoof the GPS system aboard the drone using the spoofer they built.
RT.com said the real danger is that the government is now considering plans that will allow local law enforcement agencies and other organizations from coast-to-coast to control drones of their own in America’s airspace.
“In five or ten years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace. Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us,” RT.com quoted Humphreys as telling Fox News.
RT.com said domestic drones are already being used by the DHS and other governmental agencies, and several small-time law enforcement groups have accumulated UAVs of their own as they await clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration.
By 2020 there expects to be tens of thousands of drones diving and dipping through US airspace.
"With that futuristic reality only a few years away, Humphreys’ experiment suggests that the FAA may have their work cut out for them if they think it’s as easy as just approving domestic use anytime soon," it said.
“What if you could take down one of these drones delivering FedEx packages and use that as your missile? That’s the same mentality the 9-11 attackers had,” Humphreys warned. — TJD, GMA News