Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency To Use Drones for Training

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) – part of the Department of Homeland Security – will be using drones when training government personnel and private companies to secure critical infrastructure. Three small unmanned aircraft will enhance its Infrastructure Stakeholder Security and Exercise Program, which prepares nationwide partners for attacks on critical infrastructure. The drones will be used to capture footage of training exercises as well as simulate attacks by unmanned aircraft. The agency purchased the drones from a U.S. manufacturer to avoid potential security and espionage concerns related to foreign-made aircraft.

“Small unmanned aircraft systems provide CISA the opportunity to offer better exercises to the critical infrastructure security and resilience stakeholder community,” CISA officials stated.

As commercial drones increase in popularity, responders must be prepared to face the new threats they present. In the assessment, CISA officials said they will use the drones to simulate attacks on crowded stadiums and other critical infrastructure, strapping “suspicious payloads” to the aircraft, and training security personnel to respond.

Privacy concerns are being addressed by ensuring the drones used in the security exercises don’t inadvertently gather data on bystanders. The aircraft are only intended to capture footage of people participating in the exercises, each of whom will be required to consent to the data capture in advance, according to CISA. The agency also plans to alert nearby businesses and residents whenever it’s using drones in the area.

“Periodic audits will be conducted to ensure that the [aircraft are] being used appropriately and that the data is properly used and does not contain any inadvertent [personally identifiable information],” CISA officials said.