The use of drones is once again in the news, but this time not because law enforcement officers are using them. Instead, it seems that criminals are getting in on the action by using swarms of them to monitor situations and flush out law enforcement officers who are just trying to do their jobs.
An FBI Hostage Situation Gone Awry
In the winter of 2017, the FBI sent a hostage rescue team to a major U.S. city. As part of their mission, they established an elevated observation post whose job it was to monitor the current unfolding situation. It wasn’t long before those in the observation post found themselves surrounded by dozens of high-speed drones. These drones made a continuous stream of low passes at high-speeds at the agents, in an attempt to flush them out of their location.
Once the agents were flushed out, it left the rest of the group blind, making it impossible for them to maintain situational awareness and making it much harder for the officers to achieve their goal. While the incident itself is still classified, it does show you how criminals are putting drones to use to develop increasingly more complex crimes.
How the Drones Arrived
The drones were apparently carried into the area earlier in anticipation of the FBI arriving on scene. Not only were the drones used to flush out the FBI and other law enforcement agents, those operating them used their drones to keep an eye on everything the officers were doing. These images were streamed live via YouTube to the other members or the criminal team. This also meant that anyone else with access to a cell phone and YouTube could see the same streaming images.
This is Not the First Time
This is not the first time criminals have used drones in the commission of a crime. But this is one of the biggest examples of mass use to disrupt an ongoing incident. As law enforcement officers, we can expect this type of situation to become more commonplace as criminals continue to look for new and better ways to improve their success rates and foil the efforts of all levels of law enforcement.
The more sophisticated the drones become, the more likely it is the criminal element will continue adding them to their toolbox. When you stop to consider how sophisticated the video cameras and WiFi or Bluetooth have become, it is easy to see why they have become so popular. All it takes is a fully charged battery and a skilled operator.
Not only have drones become more sophisticated, but they have become more stable and much easier to operate. In fact, they are so easy, most kids over the age of 9 or 10 quickly become expert pilots. Drones have come a long way since their inception, they are inexpensive to buy or replace and almost impossible for law enforcement officers to do anything about. So, the next time you are out on a stand-off situation and you start to see drones in the air, chances are good the bad guys are looking at you, so smile for the birdie and then get back to the job at hand.