Using only $1000 worth of equipment, a group of researchers hijacked a small drone, highlighting the vulnerabilities of unencrypted GPS signals. Unmanned aerial vehicles have become a fact of modern warfare, and their presence is even making its way into everyday American life: Amateurs already have turned drones into a popular hobby, and law enforcement agencies want permission to deploy them as well. But while the powerful military drones used overseas use encrypted GPS signals, the ones in the United States rely on signals from open civilian GPS, which makes them vulnerable to GPS “spoofing.”
A drone launches from the USS Lassen.
What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear “drones”? Military spy planes—or sophisticated toys cultivated by a growing group of DIY enthusiasts? The ingredients that go into an unmanned aerial vehicle, such as autopilot technology, GPS, and cameras, have grown small enough to fit on a toy plane and cheap enough for amateurs to buy, in part because these electronics are also integral components of smartphones.
On the Wired Danger Room blog, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of the magazine, predicts the rise of the personal drone industry.
Why? The reason is the same as with every other digital technology: a Moore’s-law-style pace where performance regularly doubles while size and price plummet. In fact, the Moore’s law of drone technology is currently accelerating, thanks to the smartphone industry, which relies on the same components—sensors, optics, batteries, and embedded processors—all of them growing smaller and faster each year. Just as the 1970s saw the birth and rise of the personal computer, this decade will see the ascendance of the personal drone. We’re entering the Drone Age.