London residents may be concerned about the military sticking missiles on top of their roofs over the Olympics, but that might not be only danger from the skies at the Games.
According to Professor Robert Dewar, former Emeritus Professor at New York University and founder of software firm AdaCore, rumoured plans to use unmanned aerial drones to monitor crowds at the events could have catastrophic consequences.
He believes that there are concerns that unmanned aircraft could malfunction if the software code used in operating them is not up to a sufficiently high standard.
“We do have to worry about them falling down on somebody’s head,” he said, speaking with TechEye. “The repercussions from an accident of that kind at the Olympics would be huge, it would set back the cause for using drones for surveillance indefinitely, I would expect.”
“The consequences of misjudging it are very significant,” Dewar said. “If someone was to be injured due to a drone crashing, it would really be a major issue, and the Olympics would be remembered for that incident.”
While there has been no official confirmation that drones will be used by the police to monitor crowds during the games, there has been speculation in the press, and Dewar is concerned that without proper planning the drones could present a risk.
As exponentially more government and law enforcement drones take to the skies over America, new research has highlighted the fact that the unmanned vehicles are extremely vulnerable and can be relatively easily hijacked and controlled.
Professor Todd Humphreys and his team at the University of Texas at Austin’s Radionavigation Laboratory are warning that the drones could be “spoofed” and taken over by anyone with the right readily available equipment.
Fox News reports that Humphreys built an advanced spoofer at a cost of just $1000, and has successfully infiltrated the GPS systems of several drones. All he has to do is send a more powerful signal to the drone than it is receiving from an orbiting satellite and he can make the vehicle do anything he commands.
“In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” Humphreys told Fox News. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.”
What’s more, both the Department of Homeland Security and the FAA are aware of the issue, but are doing little to alleviate the problem.
The majority of drones that are being deployed in US airspace now function using unencrypted civilian GPS, leaving them wide open to attack.
“I’m worried about them crashing into other planes,” Humphreys told Fox News. “I’m worried about them crashing into buildings. We could get collisions in the air and there could be loss of life, so we want to prevent this and get out in front of the problem.”
“What if you could take down one of these drones delivering FedEx packages and use that as your missile? That’s the same mentality the 9-11 attackers had,” Humphreys said.
Last month it was reported that a mystery object, believed to be a surveillance drone almost did cause a mid air collision with with a commercial jet.
In a few years drones will be competing in the Olympics, not just pretending to be hijacked as they crash into people.