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Journalists at The War Zone Tyler Rogoway and Joseph Trevithick, with the support of research completed by Douglas D. Johnson, a volunteer researcher affiliated with the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU), investigated a series of drone incursions at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station in Arizona in late 2019. Rogoway and Trevithick analyzed the incident, which included direct communications of when the drone sightings occurred, what information was known at the time, and how the teams responded. Here is what they learned:
Palo Verde’s existing security system did not prepare them for the drone incursions, and they join a long line of power facilities that have been plagued by illegal drones. Although no damage was reported at Palo Verde, open questions remain about who the drones belonged to, why they were flying, and what information they gathered.
After a thorough investigation from the U.S. FBI, DHS and other government agencies, Rogoway and Trevithick share, “the helplessness and even cavalier attitude toward the drone incident as it was unfolding by those that are tasked with securing one of America's largest and most sensitive nuclear facilities serves as an alarming and glaring example of how neglected and misunderstood this issue is.”
Advances in drone technology have brought numerous applications and various benefits to society, and the threat of misuse should not be discounted. Aviation regulators such as The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibit drones from flying over designated national security-sensitive facilities, including nuclear plants. This does not stop drone pilots with malicious intent.
Within the past few years, numerous incidents have occurred with small drones that disrupt the security of sensitive facilities, including several nuclear power plants.
Airspace security technology must be incorporated as a primary detection mechanism for nuclear facilities, first to understand the occurrence rate of drones in the airspace, and second, to enable security teams to defend themselves.
Drones at nuclear facilities pose a physical and surveillance threat, including:
Nuclear sites need to conduct a vulnerability assessment of their airspace activity and quantify the actual occurrence of drones in their airspace. The airspace evaluation is accomplished with Dedrone sensors and software, which are installed onsite and active within minutes, immediately tracking drone activity.
With a vulnerability assessment, nuclear security teams can answer:
After the threat level is measured at each site, security managers can make a data-driven decision on whether they need to implement localizing technology or more sensors to gain situational awareness.
Additional sensors can help localize pilots, supporting law enforcement in apprehending unlawful drone pilots and any resulting investigations or prosecution.
Drone incursions at nuclear facilities are a preventable problem. Drones will continue to arrive unannounced and to stay ahead of the drone threat, nuclear security teams must take action to extend their security systems to the airspace.
Clay Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org