back to article Drone 'swarm' buzzed off FBI surveillance bods, says tech bloke

An American government employee has publicly claimed that a criminal gang used a swarm of drones to fend off an FBI raid. Joe Mazel, the chief of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation’s operational technology law unit, told the AUVSI Xponential conference in Colorado, USA, that a hostage rescue team were driven out of …

  1. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Terminator

    An Interesting Indent.

    But I don't see what they can do about it.

    Consumer drones are here to stay, and if this is a fishing expedition for some wonder tool to jam drones hows that going to work?

    Most consumer drones operate on the unlicensed 2.4 & 5ghz band's it's not exactly subtle to roll up and disable all wifi in a block's radius, even the dumbest drug dealer is going to notice that.

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: An Interesting Indent.

      ..Consumer drones are here to stay.

      Ban them! Ban them Immediately!!!

      Won't somebody think of the children?

      1. Haku

        Re: An Interesting Indent.

        "Won't somebody think of the children?"

        Wouldn't having more drones be better for them? I mean they'd have to go outside to play with them instead of staying indoors with eyes glued to computers & consoles...

        1. Kane Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: An Interesting Indent.

          "Wouldn't having more drones be better for them? I mean they'd have to go outside to play with them instead of staying indoors with eyes glued to computers & consoles..."

          Nope! Some bright spark out there will just write an app/software/(insert console name here) game so that you can fly your own drone from the comfort of your living room!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: An Interesting Indent.

        "Ban them! Ban them Immediately!!!"

        Ban them? Why would they ban something that has Bad Guyz broadcasting a radio signal?

        It seems easy to imagine how law enforcement could get interested. A cell phone suddenly starting using lots of data from a disused corner of a warehouse area, isn't that interesting for people with Stingrays in the back of their van?

      3. onefang Silver badge

        Re: An Interesting Indent.

        "Won't somebody think of the children?"

        The children love playing with drones.

    2. Haku

      Re: An Interesting Indent.

      There is a drop in module for consumer hobby grade RC transmitters that runs on 868mhz (for Europe) and 915mhz (for everywhere else) and reaches 100km on full power, your average multirotor won't get that far but fixed wing craft can and do.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: An Interesting Indent.

        "...868mhz...and 915mhz..."

        MHz.

        Uppercase M for Mega. (Lowercase m is milli.)

        Uppercase H because Hz is derived from a name.

        And 433MHz would be for Asia.

        1. Fred Tourette
          Thumb Up

          MHz, kWh, A/C...

          Thank you. The call us at best, WordNerds, at worst, assholes, but someone has to try and keep the collective Us from completely losing all grammar and punctuation. Bad enough we've all but lost the ability to find the Shift Key.

          1. onefang Silver badge

            Re: MHz, kWh, A/C...

            "Bad enough we've all but lost the ability to find the Shift Key."

            i think that gets evened out when PEOPLE GET ALL SHOUTY.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Uffish

        Re:drop in module

        For a 100 km UHF line of sight range I have two questions, what is the "full power' of the transmitter(s) and what is the height of the drone ? I would think that one or both of those values should be 'unusual'.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: An Interesting Indent.

      Most consumer drones operate on the unlicensed 2.4 & 5ghz band's it's not exactly subtle to roll up and disable all wifi in a block's radius, even the dumbest drug dealer is going to notice that.

      No but if they put in some transmitters at more than a few random places on the boarder they wouldn't have to be manned. The effect would be that the bad guys would assume there's agents in place. Maybe kick off the jammer, have a half dozen agents run around for a week to show a presence and move on. Seems this getting to Spy-vs-Spy stuff. Do it enough with manning the sites randomly and the bad guys won't know if the border patrol is there or not.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: An Interesting Indent.

        "Do it enough with manning the sites randomly and the bad guys won't know if the border patrol is there or not."

        Maybe just build the greatest and bestest wall in the world tall enough that drones can't fly over it. That's my idea. It's up to others to figure out how.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It's up to others to figure out how.

          10 Build a brick wall.

          20 Add another course of brick.

          30 GoTo 20

    4. Smooth Newt
      Meh

      Re: An Interesting Indent.

      Consumer drones are here to stay, and if this is a fishing expedition for some wonder tool to jam drones hows that going to work?

      Its the same strategy with encryption. Find a couple of obscure edge cases and use that as leverage to ban everything.

    5. gnarlymarley

      Re: An Interesting Indent.

      . . . disable all wifi in a block's radius . . .

      Ummmm, most wireless home phones operate in the 2.4GHz and 900MHz bands. If any us still has one of these, probably a good idea to have a hardwired phone handy just in case they do jam those frequencies.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wouldn't it be better to know where the feds are? Why move them?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Because if the crims are smart enough to recognize the utility of drones in their operations, they might not have the surveillance experience to refrain from blatantly exposing their surveillance.

      Don't worry though, they'll learn.

  3. K Silver badge

    "direct surveillance of potential targets of interest"

    Would love further details on how they achieve this.. as drones at best have 20-25 minutes of battery life, so whilst its ok for very short views, its not very realistic for anything more. Saying that, there was a guy a couple of years ago who discovered his wife was cheating using such means:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiZH5eH5eDw

    1. Boothy

      Re: "direct surveillance of potential targets of interest"

      Not all drones are battery powered, gas/petrol versions are around and they can fly and hour+ without issue.

      Also who's to say even if they were the battery powered versions, that they didn't have multiple drones to hand, replacing an almost flat one, with a fully changed one.

      Or could use spare battery packs, land, swap for a fresh pack, takeoff. With say 3 or 4 battery packs on rotation per drone, all on charge when not in use, you could keep a drone up in the air almost continuously.

    2. Martin 66

      Re: "direct surveillance of potential targets of interest"

      As someone mentioned above - fixed wing drones can fly for over 100km and can fly autonomously with a pre-planned flight path - they can fly for hours and hours and hours.

      There is a My twin dream on youtube that flew over 200km

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All we now need is someone to produce a net throwing gun to down the low flying drones - let the drone wars begin.

    1. Haku

      I wouldn't judge the effectiveness of a net gun against a drone solely by looking at such videos on Youtube, because more often than not the pilot of the target drone isn't doing anything to avoid capture, and they're all 'slow' GPS assisted type drones, they'd have near zero chance against a good pilot flying a racing drone that does 100mph+ which can turn and dart off in a different direction faster than you can pull the trigger on a net gun.

      1. Cederic

        re: net gun effectiveness

        Don't be so sure. I mean, these guys have superior projectile speed to a net gun - but also a significantly smaller projectile:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xq0oCM37oZA

        1. Haku

          Re: re: net gun effectiveness

          Ahh the old Guns vs drones video, yes that's very entertaining but the pilots were flying their drones within a specific area for the shooters to fire at.

          Had the shooters given the pilots no restrictions on where to fly then it would be a completely different, and probably less entertaining video as the drones would probably circle the shooters at high speed or simply go far enough away to really test the shooters accuracy.

          1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

            Re: re: net gun effectiveness

            Yes, that video is good clean fun for the family but it had every fiber of my being crying out, "Oh, FFS! Let the pilots do free flight, but then let the shooters use 10 or 12ga shotguns with number 2 bird shot. Use rednecks who hunt birds on the wing, not cops..."

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: re: net gun effectiveness

              "use 10 or 12ga shotguns with number 2 bird shot."

              12 gauge, modified choke, goose loads. Good out to 80 or 90 yards. Any duck hunter worth his/her salt should have no trouble taking out drones if they are in range.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "they'd have near zero chance against a good pilot flying a racing drone that does 100mph+ which can turn and dart off in a different direction faster than you can pull the trigger on a net gun."

        Assuming the crims have people with that skill level.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bit of a giveway

      'Do you think the Sweeny are watching us?'

      'Hmm - not sure, tell you what I'll go and hover the drone over likely hiding spots'

      'Yup - they are out there they chucked a net out the window of that innocent looking post office van'

      'OK, I'll flush the evidence - you build a quick cardboard box barrier to stop any pursuit'

      1. Haku

        Re: Bit of a giveway

        On the flip side of surveillance using drones, I heard of a SWAT guy that uses a micro sized camera quad weighing less than 40 grams (check out tinywhoop.com) to scan & clear rooms when entering buildings with potential hostiles - far better to send in a cheap & easily replaceable toy than a person.

        Just like that scene in the old 1984 film Runaway with Tom Selleck where they send a Floater camera robot into a house to try find a rogue robot wielding a gun.

      2. Shart Tank

        Re: Bit of a giveway

        'Then we'll get on our scooters without helmets and they won't be able to give chase.'

    3. englishr
      Black Helicopters

      @Ivan 4: "let the drone wars begin"

      Oh, come on - it's Star Wars Day...

      The drone wars - begun, they have!

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Next step

    A shotgun bolted next to the camera on the drone.

    A lot of the bigger ones have no issue in carrying one.

    1. mstreet

      Re: Next step

      "A shotgun bolted next to the camera on the drone.

      A lot of the bigger ones have no issue in carrying one."

      I think the evolution of drone warfare will be to go smaller rather than larger. Instead of having the drone carry weapons, it would make more sense to construct the body out of something that can be detonated, and turn them into a sort of guided hand grenade.

      A swarm of several hundred, or even thousands, is going to be cheaper, more damaging, and have a far bigger psychological effect than one or two big near-aircraft size drones.

      Just the noise a swarm like that would make, would be terrifying, never mind seeing a few peel off the swarm, fly close to a target and explode.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Next step

        "I think the evolution of drone warfare will be to go smaller rather than larger. Instead of having the drone carry weapons, it would make more sense to construct the body out of something that can be detonated, and turn them into a sort of guided hand grenade."

        https://autonomousweapons.org/slaughterbots/

      2. c1ue

        Re: Next step

        Sounds good in theory, until the taser or detonator firing anti-drone goes up in the air.

        How nice, self-destroying drones...

    2. GIRZiM Bronze badge

      Re: Next step

      "A shotgun bolted next to the camera on the drone."

      And the recoil?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More BS

    They are just floating this anonymous poorly sourced vague nonsense in an attempt to crack down on civilian drone use.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Killer Drone

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Viwwetf0gU

    1. Haku

      Re: Killer Drone

      You don't need to carry a whole chainsaw to be lethal, a razor blade is enough... to play fruit ninja with a drone:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uoczdon9Vo

      In slow-mo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVFrTTHp3bk

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahem

    "small drones are increasingly being used by American gangs in scenarios that were exclusively the preserve of military and paramilitary State agencies"

    C'mon just ban these things outside sports use (in a big netted area so they cant escape). Nobody outside sports users other than surveyors need them and their ones can be big and noisey and require permits worn around the neck at all times even when transporting the contraption.

    Tiny toy ones that get blown out of the sky outside when a bee buzzes by and have a flight time of 2 mins with 10 mins charge time are ok. Just stick Elsa and other disney characters of the front to make sure its clear that these are kids toys and nothing that a grown hairy drucg dealing man wants to be seen with in front of Heisenburg.

  9. lglethal Silver badge
    Joke

    This was in America, right?

    Surely the cops should have just blown it out of the sky? Isnt that what any redneck confronted by a drone would do? By not shooting it, they definitely gave themselves away as cops. Rookie error, that one...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "C'mon just ban these things outside sports use (in a big netted area so they cant escape)."

    Yes, make things criminals use illegal, that'll have the crims quaking in their boots....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I smell bulshit,

    if this had happened in real life then the FBI/cops would have just shot the things down, then they would have some Roswell style evidence to show the media....

    I detect the stench that is new legislation to limit the use of drones....

  12. Tikimon Silver badge
    FAIL

    Naivete and lack of imagination

    It takes a special kind of numbskull to adopt a new widget or technology, and assume their adversaries will not use that same tech against them AND find countermeasures to it. Anyone with the least grasp of history should ANTICIPATE this reaction, not act surprised.

    "Wow, we have an awesome new game-changing Thing that will give us a huge advantage in our war on crime/jihadis/freedom/badgers/whatever! And nobody else will ever think of it/steal it/copy it!" Seriously?!?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Tommorrow never comes - Oh yeah !!

    So where is the MPC with the EMP cannon mounted on top.

    The Growler jamming all communications.

    and the invisi-cloaked agents de-merging from the walls and environment to arrest everyone.

    Seems that we're here already

  14. Triumphantape

    *laugh*

    Chased off by racing drones, I guess none of them had a shotgun....

  15. JWLong

    My Drone

    http://dark-heresy-rp.wikia.com/wiki/File:Longbow.jpg

    I've been a bow hunter for decades, I can make my own equipment and know how to use it. And, I'm very stealthy and have quit good hearing.

    Bring it on.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: My Drone

      While my Martin Archery Lithium LTD is a damn nice bow, I still reach for my old Browning 12 gauge for this kind of work. Horses for courses & all that.

  16. Agamemnon
    Black Helicopters

    FLIR In 3...2...

    Eats the power, but super usable.

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