FORT KNOX, Ky. — As popularity in commercial drones continues to grow in the United States, Army officials are getting the word out that any attempts to cross into military air space with these devices will be met by counter measures.
The detailed and situational plans for those counter measures remain classified, but the intent of thwarting what Department of Defense officials call small unmanned aircraft systems, or sUAS, is public knowledge.
“The Department [of Defense] must protect and defend personnel, facilities, and assets in an environment where increasing numbers of sUAS will share the skies with DoD aircraft, operate in the airspace over DoD installations, and be employed by our Nation’s adversaries,” according to an online DoD white paper titled Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Strategy.
In that document, DoD officials explain the then-Secretary of Defense in 2019 appointed the Department of Army as executive agent for Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, with the mission of establishing the Joint C-sUAS Office, and leading, synchronizing and directing all activities “to facilitate unity of effort across the Department.”
One concern is that drones can potentially be armed and sent into key locations on post to target facilities or personnel. They can also be used to surveil installations. Army leaders, as a result, have been given authority to do what is necessary to protect military assets.
“Army installations are the foundation of Army readiness,” according to U.S. Army Materiel Command Public Affairs. “To protect our people, mission and assets, commanders have been authorized the ability to damage, destroy, seize or disable unauthorized unmanned aircraft.”
The officials warn that consequences for flying drones over installations is not limited to the aircraft itself.
“Unmanned aircraft operators who violate Federal Aviation Administration flight restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.”
Fort Knox officials say there have been rare occasions when attempts have been made to fly drones onto the installation. As a result, Army leaders are asking for help from those who work on post to report any sightings.
“If you see something, say something,” according to Army officials. “Unauthorized unmanned aircraft systems have the ability to surveil, disrupt or potentially strike Army assets.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to report all sightings of unmanned aircraft systems.”
Since 2016, most U.S. manufactured drones have been modified to return to a pilot if they fly too close to military installations.
Commercial drones 0.55 pounds or more must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. But administration officials state on their website at How to Register Your Drone | Federal Aviation Administration (faa.gov) that all drone manufacturers have until Sept. 16 to make sure their drones come with “built-in standard remote ID.”
The reason given is because the FAA looks at drones as the newest members of the National Airspace System.
As well, all drone pilots who must register their drones will need to upgrade their drones to fly in accordance with remote ID rules by Sept. 16, 2023. The FAA website explains that “remote ID is the ability of a drone in flight to provide identification and location information that can be received by other parties.”
In other words, “Remote ID helps the FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies find the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where it is not allowed to fly,” according to the FAA. “Remote ID also lays the foundation of the safety and security groundwork needed for more complex drone operations.”
While much of these new regulations and laws are geared to everyday use in nonmilitary settings, Mike Morrison, Fort Knox Garrison antiterrorism officer, said military installations have a much simpler answer.
The installation is a no-drone zone,” said Morrison. “All unauthorized unmanned drones are prohibited here.”