It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…Drone? Model planes increasingly being used for terror attacks

Friday, August 24, 2012 at 10:06 am by

Earlier this month, Spanish authorities recovered a video illustrating a man guiding a large remote-controlled aircraft over southern Spain.  At the pilots direction, the plane then slowly descended and dropped two small packages from both wings.  Spanish authorities believe the video was recorded by an al Qaeda terrorist attempting to convert a toy plane into a deadly explosive.  Three men were arrested, including Cengiz Yalkin, a Turkish National living in Spain as an al Qaeda cell facilitator, and two Chechen associates specializing in explosives.

Unfortunately, converting model air-crafts–originally intended for hobby purposes–into bombers is not unprecedented.  In 2011, Rezwan Ferdaus, a Korean War veteran purchased miniature versions of the F-86 Sabre fighter jet, to build attack planes and destroy the Penatagon and U.S. Capitol with C-4 plastic explosives.  He pleaded guilty last month.  Before finding inspiration by al Qaeda’s ideology, Ferdaus was a Northeastern University graduate with a degree in physics.

In 2008, Christopher Paul, a Columbus Ohio resident, pleaded guilty to planning terrorist plots in both the United States and Europe.  Paul, who allegedly joined al Qaeda in the early 1990s, conducted extensive research from 2006, on numerous remote-controlled miniatures, including a boat and helicopter.

While the federal government, through the the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) fail to regulate the purchases of certain models, both Senator Charles Schumer (D- New York) and Congressman John Mica (R-Florida) have called for further regulations as a result of these models getting into the wrong hands, and creating catastrophic results, whether through deploying explosives or chemical materials.  Since the September 11th attacks, federal agents have asked organizations and hobby shops, such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics, to report any suspicious purchasers of model planes with questionable intentions.  However, the FAA has yet to implement any new regulations regarding the suspicious purchases of models for criminal use.

In an ironic twist, the Obama Administration is under scrutiny for continuing President George W. Bush’s foreign policies in using drones for surveillance and missile strikes against terrorists.  According to CNN, drones, which are similar to remote controlled air-crafts, have made “a dramatic impact in the campaign against al Qaeda and other terror groups in Pakistan — and is now being expanded to the Horn of Africa.”  Drone strikes have increased from 52 during the Bush presidency, to an estimated 278 during the Obama administration.

The FAA should begin implementing regulations that will detect suspicious purchases of models.  Hopefully, the FAA, organizations and hobby shop business owners are working with both federal and local law enforcement agencies in detecting such purchases.  The government, without hindering miniature hobby enthusiasts, needs to continue developing protective measures to prevent potential attacks, as they did in 2008, 2011 and most recently in Spain.

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2 Responses to “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…Drone? Model planes increasingly being used for terror attacks”

  1. Patrick McKay Says:

    Oh the irony. I discovered this post from a Google News alert I have set up, and I must say I am shocked to see a supposedly conservative group calling itself the People’s Campaign for the Constitution calling for increased government regulation and denying civil rights to innocent hobbyists who have done you no harm. I am both a lifelong conservative and a model airplane enthusiast, and I am appalled by the hypocrisy shown in this post. You claim model airplanes can be used for terrorism, so you call for government regulation. What if this concerned not model planes, but guns? I bet you as conservatives would stand by your second amendment rights and oppose any effort by the state to regulate your right to own whatever types of guns you want (I would agree with that position by the way).

    Just like guns, model airplanes are a morally neutral piece of equipment, which like any other piece of equipment can be used for either good or evil. Yes there have been people who have attempted to use them in terrorist attacks, though anyone even remotely familiar with the basics of RC flying could tell you that a remote control plane would be an extremely ineffective delivery system for any kind of bomb. Most RC planes would struggle to carry even a few more ounces of weight, let alone pounds of C4. And yet you who would oppose government regulation of guns deliberately designed to kill people, call for the government to regulate and restrict access to *toy airplanes* which are legitimately enjoyed by thousands of people across America as a fun and productive hobby. All this because they *might* conceivably be used in a terrorist attack.

    So what exactly do you want? Background checks and waiting periods in order to buy a remote control plane from a local hobby shop or a Chinese import site? Government registries of remote controls? FAA restrictions on where and what type of planes we’re allowed to fly? And how exactly would this stop terrorism? Because, as 2nd amendment advocates love to point out, the thing about criminals is that they don’t obey laws. So how exactly is restricting my right to practice a hobby I enjoy and would never dream of using to harm anyone going to stop terrorism? I guess hypocrites like you don’t really care about civil rights for anyone but yourselves.

  2. Jonathan Latimer Says:

    This is weird, really weird. How about the article which says that the satellite is bomb that is currently unarmed? Now that is shocking!
    MotionModels

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