Last year in Denver, Colorado, an FBI hostage rescue team were attending an unfolding hostage incident.
As agents attempted to set up a vantage point, a swarm of small drones suddenly engulfed the team. Agents described the drones as performing “high-speed low passes at the agents” rendering agents “blind”, meaning they no longer had eyes on their target.
This story came to light after the FBI’s head of operational technology, Joe Mazel, relayed events to attendees at the AUVSI Xponential (an unmanned technology) conference in Colorado.
According to website Defense One, Mazel told the conference that suspects had the drones ready in preparation for the FBI’s arrival. Aside from momentarily distracting the agents, the drone swarm also gave the suspects an aerial view of their would-be capturers.
The talk highlighted the extent to which criminals were using drones to help with their crimes. Mazel stated that organized criminal gangs were now frequently using drones to spy on authorities.
Drone swarms harnessed by criminals could be problematic. Screen grab from Black Mirror season 3, episode 6.
Other incidents of criminal misconduct using drones
- The FBI says that gangs are using drones to intimidate witnesses who wish to testify against them. Joe Mazel said drones have been spotted outside of police stations, surveilling the comings and going of people to see who is coming and going
- More criminals are using drones as a tool in their misdeeds. Thieves use drones to case out properties before they commit to a robbery or to look for security holes at certain facilities.
- We have previously spoken about how drones have been used by criminals to smuggle goods over borders or walls. A group recently smuggled more than $80 million worth of iPhones from Hong Kong to mainland China. Similarly – gangs in the United Kingdom were discovered using drones to deliver drugs and other contraband into several prisons.