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Government Technology

Drone Maker Enforces No-Fly Zone Over DC, Hijacking Malware Demonstrated 165

An anonymous reader writes A recent incident at the White House showed that small aerial vehicles (drones) present a specific security problem. Rahul Sasi, a security engineer at Citrix R&D, created MalDrone, the first backdoor malware for the AR drone ARM Linux system to target Parrot AR Drones, but says it can be modified to target others as well. The malware can be silently installed on a drone, and be used to control the drone remotely and to conduct remote surveillance. Meanwhile, the Chinese company that created the drone that crashed on the White House grounds has announced a software update for its "Phantom" series that will prohibit flight within 25 kilometers of the capital.
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Drone Maker Enforces No-Fly Zone Over DC, Hijacking Malware Demonstrated

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    why was the government employee even flying the drone at 3AM?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2015 @04:23AM (#48930281)

      Yes, people doing things that you are not doing yourself are always wrong and worthy of suspicion! #theamericanway

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because he was drunk and wanted to

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr. Shotgun ( 832121 )

      why was the government employee even flying the drone at 3AM?

      To be fair, when you're drunk at 3am flying a quadrocopter into the white house is one of the more sane choices people can make. At least he kept his pants on when he was doing it.

      • by cHiphead ( 17854 )

        At least he kept his pants on when he was doing it.

        Yes, but it's all about intent, and his intent with flying the drone was the removal of pants.

      • To be fair, when you're drunk at 3am flying a quadrocopter into the white house is one of the more sane choices people can make.

        Partying with you must be lots of fun.

        Mr. Shotgun....

      • At least he kept his pants on when he was doing it.

        ... we hope.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:54AM (#48930767) Homepage

      If you have a drone, the question is; why WOULDN'T you be flying the drone at 3AM?

      • On the White House grounds? If you're a federal employee? I guess it would be different if he were a federal employee that didn't want to be fired.

        • Maybe he wanted to be fired in a most spectacular way?

          Then again, due to the federal workers' union I hear that it takes a *lot* to get fired as a federal employee... I mean, you practically have to murder some senator's kids or something.

  • What if you live, say, 20 miles from the capital? If that happened in London it would stop about *15% of the UK population from being able to use one! Perhaps that malware will be useful in re-enabling the damned things!

    *I guessed that, but I think it's close.

    • by cdu13a ( 95385 )

      I don't think you would have a problem, since 25km is only about 15.53 miles.

      Either way a lot of large metro areas already have limits on flying a drone in urban areas, either from federal or municiple laws. Unfortunatly because of stupid people and the fact that a lot of drone manufatures are from china, selling into a western market. You are going to get a lot of prememptive restrictions since the manufactures don't want to loose access to the market.

      Over all I would rather take my drone for a trip to the

      • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @06:24AM (#48930493) Journal

        >. Either way a lot of large metro areas already have limits on flying a drone in urban areas, either from federal or municiple laws.

        Yeah there's a federal law that covers "populated areas". The law passed by Congress gives the FAA authority to make rules regulating airspace. As I recall, for model aircraft the FAA rules reference (or incorporate verbatim?) the rules of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the primary hobbyist association*. The AMA bars flight over populated areas, encouraging people to find a cow pasture IR something.

        * It may seem odd that a private club has effectively been given authority to make law, but it has worked quite well for 60 years or whatever. The hobbyists have made good rules for themselves. This is analogous to the other AMA, where doctors make rules for themselves and any doctor violating these generally accepted standards is likely to lose any court case.

        • ps details here (Score:4, Informative)

          by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @06:33AM (#48930507) Journal

          For anyone who wants details, the AMA safety code is here:

          http://www.modelaircraft.org/f... [modelaircraft.org]

          They also have documents describing their agreements with the FAA:
          http://www.modelaircraft.org/d... [modelaircraft.org]

        • by phayes ( 202222 )

          TFA makes it clear that this is NOT just for Washington DC & not just for hobbyists

          The FAA has a list of flight restricted zones where all aircraft are restricted unless explicitly authorized. Phantom already partially respected these regulations but are just tightening up a number of omitted areas.

          • by Puls4r ( 724907 )
            I didn't know that. It actually bothers me that they would intentionally make their product un-flyable in areas to 'prevent' me from breaking the law. Is it a law that they have to do it? I'm looking at car manufacturers: how would people feel if they governed their cars to the posted speed limits on the roads? A lot more analogies can be drawn. I'm not surprised that a Chinese company took this route: it's par for the course in China to be under the governmental thumb.
            • Is it a law that they have to do it?

              No, this is them annoying some of their customers (people who want to fly illegally in the DC no-fly zone) in an attempt to preempt knee-jerk over compensating by federal authorities. The feds would rather just ban the devices entirely, period.

              • No, this is them annoying some of their customers (people who want to fly illegally in the DC no-fly zone) in an attempt to preempt knee-jerk over compensating by federal authorities. The feds would rather just ban the devices entirely, period.

                The Feds will do so anyways, so I don't see why the manufacturer is even bothering.

            • I didn't know that. It actually bothers me that they would intentionally make their product un-flyable in areas to 'prevent' me from breaking the law. Is it a law that they have to do it?

              Why should it bother you? What is it preventing you from doing that you would otherwise do? You have no actual need to fly a drone near the white house or in other restricted airspace. Given the safety concerns involved what you want (versus need) to do is pretty much irrelevant unless you can articulate a coherent reason for what you hope to accomplish. And for the record, no we should not by default trust you or anyone else to necessarily make good choices in this matter. I'd certainly be willing to

              • by Puls4r ( 724907 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @01:20PM (#48932471)
                Are you an American? I ask because I cringe when I see this type of comment from a people who should understand what freedom and limited government is supposed to mean.

                We don't use a metric of what I 'need' to do to determine what freedoms I should have. I don't need to purchase a 64 ounce mountain dew. That hardly means that I should be protected from doing so if I choose to. It's not exactly analogous to the drone situation, but it's a good representation of why the metric you propose is NOT one than anyone worried about personal freedom would ever support.

                I don't need to make an argument of why I should be able to do something. You're trying to put the onus on the users, when it fact the onus is ALWAYS on the person trying to take away. Do we have systems in our cars that prevent us from crashing the gates at the White House? Do we have systems in our phones that prevent us from abusing the 911 emergency line?

                I could continue, but frankly if you don't understand or agree with the argument it's pointless to go on. You comment regarding the United States being 'not so different' that China is fairly telling. It's not based in any semblence of reality. Censorship? Political arrests?

                You argument is completely nonsensical on both counts.
                • by sjbe ( 173966 )

                  Are you an American? I ask because I cringe when I see this type of comment from a people who should understand what freedom and limited government is supposed to mean.

                  Yes I am and I'm also bright enough to realize that freedom does not mean you get to do whatever the hell you want any time you want regardless of the consequences. Freedom does not mean no laws. Limited government does not mean no government. It means we keep government out of things that it has no reason to be involved in. Safety of the public airspace is something the government very much has a reason to be involved because there is a compelling public interest at stake.

                  We don't use a metric of what I 'need' to do to determine what freedoms I should have.

                  We do that all the time. We d

                  • That's all sort of moot -- people who use drones to actually carry out attacks won't give a shit about any law or regulation. (See, arguably, our own use of drones.)

                    This is a really hard problem. An attack from a small drone would be incredibly difficult to guard against. I'm actually shocked (legitimately) that there haven't been any attacks using hobbyist drones yet, since it's hard to think of a potential target that wouldn't be vulnerable. With the lower barrier to entry into the airspace (and event

            • by N1AK ( 864906 )
              It's pretty common for GPS drones to include no fly areas like airports and military bases. Obviously that's primarily in place to stop someone accidently causing a plane crash, as anyone intentionally trying to do so would find it trivial to get round the restriction. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I don't want to fly my drone into those areas, and if I did for some very niche reason then I could intentionally subvert it. Blocking out hundreds of square KMs of land because a drone was foun
              • In this particular case, DC IS a no fly zone, at least since 9/11. There was talk in this area shortly after that happened to the effect of any plane flying into that region could be shot down if they were unable to identify it or if it failed to respond. This came directly from the pentagon impact as they saw that plane coming in, and tried to get it to respond, and by the time they would have shot it down, it was already too late as the decision process took too long.

        • It may seem odd that a private club has effectively been given authority to make law, but it has worked quite well for 60 years or whatever.

          It's nothing unusual at all. To give another example Congress granted the SEC delegates authority over accounting standards to the Financial Accounting Standards Board [wikipedia.org] which is not a governmental agency but rather is an association of professionals tasked with setting accounting standards for public companies. And they do a very good job of this task. (I'm a certified accountant so yes I would actually know) If they failed in it the SEC could take the responsibility away at any time and by using this gr

        • Actually, this model is pretty widely used. The FAA and the ARRL (American Radio Relay League - amateur radio) work closely together and the ARRL is even responsible for first line enforcement. I'm not sure the AMA is a good example at all since it really doesn't make any broad rules of conduct other than some weak ethics rules. Remember, AMA enrollment in the US is, and has been, below 50% for a very long time. The FAA works closely with a number of industry and private groups including 'hobbyist' pilo

          • Oops. TMA (Too Many Acronyms).

            AMA = Academy of Model Aeronautics as well as the American Medical Association.

            You made need additional caffeine to distinguish the two in the last couple of posts.

          • The FAA and the ARRL (American Radio Relay League - amateur radio) work closely together and the ARRL is even responsible for first line enforcement.

            That is complete nonsense. ARRL has no enforcement authority for anything, either with the FAA (why would it?) or the FCC (which is what I think you meant.)

            The ARRL is a VEC (volunteer examiner coordinator) which gives them a pipeline into the ULS (uniform licensing system) database for licensing, but they have zero enforcement function. They aren't a frequency coordinator so they don't even get authority to resolve interference issues.

            The ARRL can notify hams of alleged rule violations all they want (

        • by rossdee ( 243626 )

          "the rules of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the primary hobbyist association*. The AMA bars flight over populated areas, "

          I'd bet that 99% of people who have bought a drone in the last 3 years never had any involvrmrent with R/C aircratf before, and never heard of that AMA

          "encouraging people to find a cow pasture IR something."

          A cow pasture infrared? WTF

          I don't think the farmer wants you disturbing his cows

          • "IR" should of course be "or".

            And definitely get permission from the owner of the pasture or join your local club, who leases a pasture-like area for a few hundred dollars per year.

        • As I recall, for model aircraft the FAA rules reference (or incorporate verbatim?) the rules of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the primary hobbyist association

          Not true, though they are pretty similar in some respects.

          Also note that the current FAA "rules" (FAA Advisory circular 91-57 - Model Aircraft Operating Standards [faa.gov]) is *advisory* -- it's not mandatory. It's not a set of rules at all, just guidelines. It encourages "voluntary compliance".

          The AMA bars flight over populated areas, encouraging people to find a cow pasture IR something.

          The AMA rules [modelaircraft.org] (not binding, but they can refuse to pay insurance claims if you violate them) say that you will not fly RC planes "directly over unprotected people, vessels, vehicles or structures". Not quite the same as you put it -- flying in a populated area is fine, as long as you aren't flying directly over people and aren't flying in a careless or reckless manner.

          It may seem odd that a private club has effectively been given authority to make law

          Again, it has not. The AMA rules are even *less* restrictive than the FAA circular in one way -- the AMA rules say not to fly over 400 feet near an airport without notifying the airport, and the FAA suggestions say not to fly over 400 feet above the surface, period. And note that R/C pilots, especially those flying gliders, fly over 400 feet quite often.

          any doctor violating these generally accepted standards is likely to lose any court case.

          Now, that part rings true ... the AMA safety code is basically the industry standard and if you're sued for hurting somebody, not following those standards will hurt you in court.

          And indeed, it seems that whatever new *mandatory* standards the FAA comes up with be largely influenced by the AMA safety code ... but we are not there yet.

        • by dougmc ( 70836 )

          To expand on the other post I just made, it's quite interesting the dangers that the R/C hobby has encountered lately.

          A few decades ago, young people stopped getting into the hobby largely due to video games and so the average modeller was getting older and older.

          R/C sites have always been at risk from encroachment by new neighbors who don't like the noise. This effect has nearly decimated general avaition airports over the last many decades and it continues.

          But then electric planes came, greatly improving

    • by Thiez ( 1281866 )
      Here in the Netherlands the government isn't even in the capital... :-)
      • Interesting. I was confused by this since I was taught as a kid that The Hague was the capital of the Netherlands and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, that is still where the government sits even though it seems that Dutch law defines Amsterdam as the capital (which was something I'd never heard of until today). So apparently at least in the UK we used to be taught based on the definition of capital, i.e. where the ruling government presides, and not whatever local laws would like to call a capital.
    • by plasm4 ( 533422 )
      A quick google search says about 18 million live inside the M25, which is just about 20 miles from the centre of London.
    • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:41AM (#48930729)
      In the Washington DC area, flights of any kind are and have been for many years very severely controlled. The DC Flight Restriction Zone (the "DC FRZ") is a 30-mile-wide circle in side of which it is illegal to fly any sort of remote control device of any kind at any altitude. So, yes, it sucks to be in the suburbs, seemingly a long way away from the sensitive downtown areas that include the White House, the Capital, Reagan Airport, the CIA campus, and all of those other high-profile places and people ... but, too bad! Federal offense with stiff fines and possible jail time if you're caught. That includes kids with $20 bought-it-at-the-mall 6" pink plastic helicopters playing around in their back yard. Yes, it's ridiculous. On the other hand, it's a rare week when a trio of big helicopters doing runs like the one between the White House and Camp David don't go thundering over the tree tops of suburban Maryland. You can hear them coming quite a ways out, and if you were prepared, you could easily have a modest quadcopter or more substantial hexa up to over 1000' feet and be at the same altitiude as (or above) Marine One by the time it and its decoy siblings flew directly over your house on the way to a routine presidential golf outing. That's the sort of thing that has had the DoD, Secret Service, HSA, and FAA all uptight. Mind you, a person flying a more or less radar-invisible foam and plastic RC plane could have done that many years ago, too.

      And so we have a 700 square mile area where flying a 3-pound DJI quadcopter is very, very illegal, and has been for years. That DJI is updating their GPS-aware flight control firmware to make it impossible to fly their devices in that area is a sign that they don't want their products to be simply banned outright. We are not at the sweet spot of rational rules and implementation on this one, not even close. And of course someone with true mal intent isn't going to be bothered by the rules or the firmware limitations anyway.
      • There is a radio controlled flight club for the DC area, which operates out of Gaithersburg (really not that far a drive from DC proper).

        http://www.dc-rc.org/ [dc-rc.org]

    • What if you live, say, 20 miles from the capital? If that happened in London it would stop about *15% of the UK population from being able to use one!

      And what is your point? Are these people who so desperately want to fly a drone incapable of driving a few miles to an area without restricted airspace?

      Fact is while there are plenty of innocent reasons to want to fly a drone, there are virtually no innocent reasons to *need* to fly a drone. Particularly that close to sensitive airspace.

      • by N1AK ( 864906 )

        Fact is while there are plenty of innocent reasons to want to fly a drone, there are virtually no innocent reasons to *need* to fly a drone

        There's no 'need' to consume alcohol, play team sport, have foods with added sugar, own a car, or have the internet either. It's idiotic to look at laws restricting things on the basis that there is no 'need' for the thing they restrict.

        • There's no 'need' to consume alcohol, play team sport, have foods with added sugar, own a car, or have the internet either. It's idiotic to look at laws restricting things on the basis that there is no 'need' for the thing they restrict.

          It's not at all idiotic to look at need versus wants when public safety concerns are involved. We do it all the time. Every single example you cite (particularly alcohol) has laws relating to balancing public needs versus private wants. Should we permit you to drive drunk just because you want to? You certainly have no need to do so. You might need to own a car but that doesn't mean your needs and wants are free of restrictions. You don't need to own a car without a muffler and so we restrict your abi

  • To many people drones are military. That is the reason they are called quadcopters or the like.
    So I was a bit surprised to learn that the drones were made in China, as I associate them with military devices.

    Using model planes or quadcopters without a GPS is the standard, so these have NO idea where they are flying, yet can be easily flown long distance with goggles.

    • They called them quadricopters before people started calling toys like this drones.

      • They called them quadrocopters before even the cheapest and most basic models got FPV allowing you to fly it way out of sight and at long ranges, autonomous flying, and all the other things we normally would have equated with military reconnaissance gear.

        Technically they have always been drones. Now though even the toys start resembling military drones.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cute the wire to the on-board GPS receiver...

  • Photocopiers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Somehow this reminds of photocopiers refusing to copy things which resemble some random selection of paper money bills.

    Sooner o later our whole civilization will go down in a huge steaming mess of stinking Rube-Goldbergness. A perverse variation on Dr. Strangelove's theme.

    Looking forward to the showdown. Will be interesting, if somewhat messy.

  • by jargonburn ( 1950578 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @05:32AM (#48930403)
    The next software patch will be to prevent its GPS from being spoofed to believe it's NOT within 25km of DC.

    The following patch will be to fix a piece of joke malware that makes the drone believe its ALWAYS within 25km of DC
    (but it won't work)

  • Yea lets start hacking drones and mass remote controlling them. That could never go wrong.
  • Possibly the PLA has the Chinese company's "Plutonium" series for use within 25 miles...
  • Stop the engine when crossing that invisible fence? A U turn? Holding position?
    • Probably no different than any of the other geofencing modes on many quadrocopters out there. It will simply refuse to keep flying forward.

      Geofencing is something that has been around a while and it's actually quite a good feature if you want to hand the remote to someone's kid or something to play with. Then they can't fly it away.

      • It will simply refuse to keep flying forward.

        Simple solution then: spin the quad 180 degrees and fly backwards. Unlike RC fixed wing aircraft, just because you can see the ass end of the quad doesn't mean it is flying away from you.

        Geofencing is something that has been around a while and it's actually quite a good feature if you want to hand the remote to someone's kid or something to play with. Then they can't fly it away.

        There is a significant ethical and technical difference between an optional setting on a UAV that doesn't let it fly more than X distance from "home" and a mandatory prohibition on flying anywhere within 10,000 or so locations programmed into the device by the manufacturer.

        Not only is the latter a huge amount of data to

        • Your simple solution is not as clever as you think it is. The control software for quads knows where it is, where it can't go, and what happens to take it in any given direction. Even in fully automated mode the software I've used from 3 companies allows you to specify which direction a quad is facing and which direction it is flying at the same time. And on my own personal quad the geofence doesn't get easily defeated by flying backwards or flying sideways (my neighbour's 6 year old tried that, though not

          • Self correction: Looks like TFA was talking about airports too. Yes that would be a large amount of data.
            But memory is cheap, especially when you store simple things. It's not hard to take the simple guts of a flight controller and equip it with 128GB of storage. Though realistically the data would likely fit on more like 128MB

    • by Morgon ( 27979 )

      If you try to fly within an NFZ, it will prevent takeoff. There's a companion app that works on your smartphone as you're flying, and it will alert you that you're in a no-fly zone.

      If you're already in the air, and bump against the NFZ, it will simply stop and refuse to continue in that direction.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @06:21AM (#48930487)

    the firmware can be altered... they're not hardcoding that.

    • the firmware can be altered... they're not hardcoding that.

      There's no danger at all in that, is there. I mean, people who want to bypass the factory programming that keeps their device from working by hacking the firmware.

      Seems kinda like someone who bypasses the fuse in his electronic widget with a piece of tinfoil because it keeps blowing and he wants to use what he paid for.

      • Don't know what you're talking about. The firmware change can be undone with a simple firmware update that takes a couple minutes.

  • What is the security risk posed by small drones?
    In your explanation please include "Drones are better than mortars at delivering explosives because..." and "Drones are better than high power telescopes because..."

    • by Ogi_UnixNut ( 916982 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @06:59AM (#48930545) Homepage

      Ok, I'll give it a go:

      Drones are better than high power telescopes because... you don't need line of sight. A Drone can go over hedges/bushes/walls, or round corners. Things that would render a telescope useless. Drones can also theoretically go inside buildings.

      Also, if you spot someone watching you with the telescope, you can see who is doing it (just look back at them with your own optics). The drone operator could be inside a building, or someone over the internet. You could not easily work out who was the operator just by looking at the drone itself.

      (on the flip side, people are less likely to notice someone 500m away with a telescope than a drone buzzing above you).

      Drones are not better than mortars, but they make for very good artillery spotters, giving you GPS co-ords to calculate trajectory for your target, again without the target risking finding out who is behind it.

      • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @07:17AM (#48930567)
        Also, as the drone has to compensate for wind, the drone can tell you what the wind strength is, so you don't have to estimate it from sighting a tree.
      • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @10:27AM (#48931171)

        True except for one issue. They are bloody noisy. So if any covert operation is the goal and you don't have the many MANY thousands of dollars needed for a drone capable of imaging from high altitudes with long focal lengths it will be painfully obvious that someone is looking.

        A telescope however is often very discrete.

      • by Morgon ( 27979 ) <jmy.morgontech@com> on Thursday January 29, 2015 @10:35AM (#48931221) Homepage

        "Drones are better than high power telescopes because you don't need line of sight"
        I think you're severely overestimating the capabilities of these commercial, civilian quads. The camera in the Phantom 2 Vision+ is a 12MP, 1080p fisheye lens, very similar to a GoPro 3. You're not getting the optics of a high-power telescope.

        DJI's new line, the Inspire One, has a 4K camera, which I guess allows for better quality, but you're still not zooming in. These things are loud, you're not using them for invading someone's privacy without them knowing.

        • by dissy ( 172727 )

          It seems the sensible solution is to mount the telescope to the camera all self-contained on/in the drone.

          I can then pilot the drone a sizable distance away from me and closer to you, but park the drone the *500m away from you so that you are in view of its telescope yet still far enough away so the sound mixes with the normal background environment.

          I'd imagine one would want the telescope camera to be in addition to any normal cameras, as the former is more for spying and less for navigating.

          * I'm not fami

    • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:50AM (#48930757)

      What is the security risk posed by small drones? In your explanation please include "Drones are better than mortars at delivering explosives because..."

      Because a drone can autonomously delivery a brick of C4 to within a meter of where you want it to go on your first try. And you can be miles away while it does that. "Miles away" is also handy if you're using it to deliver an aerosoled nerve agent or some bio-nasty substance over, say, a presidential press conference in the Rose Garden, or a speech on the steps of the Capital.

      • You're hired. Or under arrest.

        Things are so confusing these days.

      • Better be sure to turn off the 'return to me' function on some drones otherwise you'll think you're Wiley E Coyote in a RoadRunner episode.

      • by Morgon ( 27979 )

        How big is your brick? While there are hexa- and octocopters that can carry a couple of pounds (which are big and conspicuous spider-looking things), the payload of the DJI Phantom line is measured in low-double-digit grams.
        Maybe it can deliver a targeted chemical payload (so can RC planes), but I think explosives would be a little difficult.

        • How big is your brick? While there are hexa- and octocopters that can carry a couple of pounds (which are big and conspicuous spider-looking things), the payload of the DJI Phantom line is measured in low-double-digit grams.

          Video [youtube.com] of one lifting 50lbs. Is that enough for you?

          • by Morgon ( 27979 )

            And you think that's going to get by undetected?

            • And you think that's going to get by undetected?

              Scenario: pop away some sort of cover on a flatbed truck a couple of blocks from the White House. Fire up a very un-sexy, easy to build hexa than can easy lift a few pounds. It could quickly self-navigate straight up to a couple hundred or more feet (these things can climb like rockets), above any local building tops, and then move horizontally towards the White House at the better part of 50mph. Who CARES if it can be detected? If there are people on the White House lawn doing some sort of camera op or pr

              • That's kind of the issue. There are people on the roof with significant firepower to take something like that down. Most of the incursions onto the lawn have been at night, when nobody of value is in the vicinity.

                You'd be better off with a mortar mounted to the truck bed and lobbing a shell onto the lawn. It will be moving a lot faster and be harder to hit when incoming, and could deliver a larger payload. 50mph really isn't that fast.

                • The problem is that if the airframe is moving directly at the White House from, say, New York Ave, it could do so at ten feet above the ground. Would still clear the fence, but anybody on the roof of the White House opening up with any sort of AA or even conventional small arms fire would be, essentially, shooting right at hundreds of people, cars, trucks, and office buildings. NOT an easy problem to solve.
        • the payload of the DJI Phantom line is measured in low-double-digit grams

          I have a pimped out Phantom. The extra payload it carries:

          1) GCU
          2) Gimbal
          3) GoPro with Battery
          4) Video Downlink TX with cloverleaf antenna
          5) iOSD
          6) Various related cables, mounting hardware

          Which all adds up to almost 340g - and it still maneuvers like crazy, and stays up for an easy 15 minutes.

          No, it's not a lot. But it's lot more than low-double-digits. My bigger rig can easily carry 8 or 9 pounds while climbing to hundreds of feet faster than you'd believe. And it can go horizontally at a p

  • What is the difference, for these small toys, of them being remote control vehicle vs a drone?
  • For the last 50 years people have had remote control aircraft. It's been simplicity itself to 'hack' them simply by using a stronger radio on the same channel. Even 20 years ago you could send them on 'autopilot' using relatively cheap gyros. Now suddenly after calling them 'drones' and a midnight drunken showboating excursion everything changes?!?!??? I'm really surprised they haven't been banned yet and anyone who purchased one branded an evil turrust! Won't someone please think of the children (i
    • Not to mention that there must be hundreds of websites detailing construction and programming of said devices. Dozens of forums. Even advertisements. Perhaps more surprising is that there is more than one manufacturer of small, GPS control multirotored devices available from such nefarious outlets as Amazon.com. An interested person could learn themselves some valuable skills just by using the Internet and even better, contribute positively to the economy by spending money.

      I guess I'll go and turn mysel

    • 50 Years? Try much longer than that, try the 1930s. The problem has been that now you have much easier flight control systems including advanced computer controls to help you fly, especially in a sub $500 range for something that represents an attack vector. Nothing prohibits an R/C airplane enthusiast from becoming a nutjob and attaching a grenade to his plane either and ruining somebody's day. Trust me, there's people in DC who've thought out these scenarios but now oh my gosh something landed on the w

  • That only works in GPS mode unless they've changed it. There's still atti and manual modes.
    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      That's okay though. Most of these idiots that buy and fly these things can't fly in manual mode anyway. They aren't really pilots. Kind of like script kiddies vs hackers. So it's a silly solution, but it might have the desired effect for a short while.

      The whole regulation issue is such a sticky one. Obviously we don't want idiots flying these things in crowded city areas, over people, or near airports. Before technology advanced and made park fliers and quadcopters possible and easy, the hobby was rath

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @10:34AM (#48931213) Journal
    That's a pretty wide swath to cut out for your equipment. It's a pretty densely populated area. A 25 km no-fly zone means people in nearby cities Alexandria & Arlington, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland wouldn't be able to fly these things. That's just 3 I spotted eyeballing the map.
    • by Morgon ( 27979 )

      It's definitely excessive. Just like the actual NOTAM [faa.gov] that this is supposedly based off of is actually 30 miles (which extends just shy of the Baltimore city border).

      One of DJI's own dealers is within this 15 mi radius, too. Will definitely be interested in seeing if it affects that side of the business, and/or how much they promote DJI's products.

  • by __aapopf3474 ( 737647 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @11:43AM (#48931635)

    Total disclosure: I've worked on Soft Walls.

    There was discussion on Slashdot about the Soft Walls Project [berkeley.edu] that did something similar for airplanes. See the 2011 [slashdot.org], 2004 [slashdot.org] and 2003 [slashdot.org] discussions.

    I believe that there was a demo involving an airplane at some point. It turns out that one of the interesting things is how to you define a blending function that makes it harder and harder for the device to fly in to the no fly zone.

    Yeah, drones are different, and I'm not sure of the value of having no fly zones for drones, but it will probably happen some day.

    In this case, a no-fly zone in DC might have prevented drunken late night operation and crashing of the drone and we would have some other news item to discuss.

    There is Soft Walls FAQ that covers common objections for airplanes. [berkeley.edu]

  • There are so many layers of stupid in this story, it's hard to address one of them without the embarrassing feeling that someone might read a rebuke of one stupidity, and take it as an implicit acceptable of the rest of the stupidity that you didn't address. If you argue too hard that Yog-Sothoth made a mistake in designing camels, somebody might think you're a creationist.

    From the point of view of a malevolent user who intends to use the device to harm someone, why would they want your malware?

    From the po

  • 25km? So I can't fly over the Potomac just upstream of DC? That's a bit ridiculous.

    A small drone as a significant risk to the White House? Not. A sniper or a rocket attack on Marine One would be more likely. They acknowledge it, but I think they play down the sniper risk to keep from giving more crazy people ideas.

!07/11 PDP a ni deppart m'I !pleH

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