The Ultimate Terrorist Threat: Flying Robot Drones
This one really pegs the movie-plot threat hype-meter:
The technology for remote-controlled light aircraft is now highly advanced, widely available -- and, experts say, virtually unstoppable.
Models with a wingspan of five metres (16 feet), capable of carrying up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds), remain undetectable by radar.
And thanks to satellite positioning systems, they can now be programmed to hit targets some distance away with just a few metres (yards) short of pinpoint accuracy.
Security services the world over have been considering the problem for several years, but no one has yet come up with a solution.
Armed militant groups have already tried to use unmanned aircraft, according to a number of studies by institutions including the Center for Nonproliferation studies in Monterey, California, and the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies in Moscow.
In August 2002, for example, the Colombian military reported finding nine small remote-controlled planes at a base it had taken from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
On April 11, 2005 the Lebanese Shiite militia group, Hezbollah, flew a pilotless drone over Israeli territory, on what it called a "surveillance" mission. The Israeli military confirmed this and responded by flying warplanes over southern Lebanon.
Remote-control planes are not hard to get hold of, according to Jean-Christian Delessert, who runs a specialist model airplane shop near Geneva.
"Putting together a large-scale model is not difficult -- all you need is a few materials and a decent electronics technician," says Delessert.
In his view, "if terrorists get hold of that, it will be impossible to do anything about it. We did some tests with a friend who works at a military radar base: they never detected us... if the radar picks anything up, it thinks it is a flock of birds and automatically wipes it."
Posted on May 9, 2006 at 7:36 AM • 65 Comments