Drone Attacks Critical Facility in Pennsylvania

November 11, 2021 | Meryl Dzikansky

CNN obtained a U.S. federal law enforcement bulletin that details an attempted drone attack on energy infrastructure in the U.S. in 2020. A drone crashing near a Pennsylvania power substation was likely part of an attempt to damage or disrupt the electric equipment.

Popular Mechanics has some illuminating details about the incident:

The perpetrators specifically modified a commercially available DJI Mavic 2 drone to short out an electrical substation that provided power to thousands of people…The bad actors also modified the drone with two four-foot-long nylon ropes connected by a length of copper wire. Federal intelligence experts believe the drone was meant to overfly the substation, using the copper wire in order to create a ‘short circuit to cause damage to transformers or distribution lines,’ according to CNN.

drone attack in PennsylvaniaMaybe it seems surprising that the perpetrator(s) used a commercially available drone, but this is often the case. The combination of technological advances, lower prices, intuitive controls and increased consumer interest means that the number of consumer drones is quickly multiplying around the globe. Many consumer drones can fly long distances and carry heavy payloads, and they are even durable in inclement weather, making them an attractive prospect for criminals.

A CNN article about this incident contains an important quote preparing us to expect more attacks on critical facilities:

“All of the attention being paid to cybersecurity right now is important, but we have to remember that physical threats to the grid like this are quite real,” said Marty Edwards, a former senior DHS official who is now vice president of operational technology at security firm Tenable.

Lay people tend to think of terror attacks or assassination attempts when they hear the term “drone incident.” Such attacks certainly get a lot of play in the media, as we saw with the attempted assassination of the Iraqi Prime Minister earlier this week. But a critical infrastructure attack could potentially affect millions of people and could cause severe disruption in a city, state or even country. Facilities that do not yet have effective counter-drone technology in place should begin preparing immediately.

Please stay tuned for my next blog post, which will look at the Iraqi drone incident and two important lessons we can learn from it…

Helpful Resources

Anti-Drone protection for Critical Facilities & Infrastructure

D-Fend Solutions’ Constantly Updated Drone Incident Tracker

Meryl Dzikansky is a marketing communications specialist at D-Fend Solutions with a strong analytical and communication background. While closely monitoring drone incidents throughout the world, she focuses on creative thinking, branding, and effective content.

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