Who Is The Most Active User Of Drones Over The United States?

Tyler Durden's picture

At this point everyone in the world knows what a drone is: some have been bombarded by one, others, thousands of miles away, have done the bombardment, and everyone else is split whether or not this remote-controlled form of international retribution and global Pax Americna should be allowed over the territory of the US - either for purely peaceful, or outright military, as was the case with the Chris Dorner manhunt, purposes.  And as with most issues that polarize US society, the approach is one of form opinion first, and investigate the underlying facts later.

To that end on Friday, the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, issued testimony on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS, or also Drones), titled "Continued Coordination, Operational Data, and Performance Standards Needed to Guide Research and Development" which while full of largely useless information, does have an informative section detailing which entities received Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA) or said otherwise "permissions to drone" for a period , from the FAA, which is the ultimate authority granting UAS flyovers in the US. Among the agencies seeking and being granted such permissions are all domestic military; public (academic institutions, federal, state, and local governments including law enforcement organizations); and civil (private sector entities).

So which entity engaged most actively in US-based droning in 2012? It will come as no surprise that of the 391 COAs issued in the past year, the Department of Defense accounted for 201 or, well over half of all authorized droning operations. One can rest assured that America is truly well defended, if mostly from enemies domestic.

The GAO's take on this:

Currently, FAA authorizes all domestic military; public (academic institutions, federal, state, and local governments including law enforcement organizations); and civil (private sector entities) UAS operations on a limited basis after conducting a case-by-case safety review. Federal, state, and local government agencies must apply for Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA), while civil operators must apply for special airworthiness certificates in the experimental category. Because special airworthiness certificates do not allow commercial operations, there is currently no means for FAA to authorize commercial UAS operations.


Since FAA started issuing COAs in January 2007, 1,428 COAs have been issued. At present, under COA or special airworthiness certification, UAS operations are permitted for specific time frames (generally 12 to 24 months); locations; and operations. So, one agency can be issued multiple COAs to operate one UAS for the same purpose. In 2012, FAA issued 391 COAs to 121 federal, state, and local government entities across the United States, including law enforcement entities as well as academic institutions (see fig. 2).


According to an industry forecast, the market for government and commercial use of UAS is expected to grow, with small UAS having the greatest growth potential. This forecast estimates that the worldwide UAS market could be potentially worth $89 billion over the next decade. The majority of this estimate is for military-type products (primarily the U.S. military) with the associated research and development for production estimated to be $28.5 billion over the next 10 years. As smaller UAS are expected to continue to improve in technology and decrease in price, their prevalence in the national airspace is expected to increase. The forecast also indicates that the United States could account for 62 percent of the world’s research and development investment for UAS technology over the coming decade.

For those not quite up to speed on the whole droning thing, here is a simplified chart explaining it all:

Finally, the risk factors read like a point by point challenge to either every black hat hacker out there, or Iran, whichever responds first.

Command, Control and Communication Systems

Ensuring uninterrupted command and control for both small and large UAS remains a key obstacle for safe and routine integration into the national airspace. Since UAS fly based on pre-programmed flight paths and by commands from a pilot-operated ground control station, the ability to maintain the integrity of command and control signals are critically important to ensure that the UAS operates as expected and as intended.

Lost Link

In a “lost link” scenario, the command and control link between the UAS and the ground control station is broken because of either environmental or technological issues, which could lead to loss of control of the UAS. To address this type of situation, UAS generally have pre-programmed maneuvers that may direct the UAS to hover or circle in the airspace for a certain period of time to reestablish its radio link. If the link is not reestablished, then the UAS will return to “home” or the location from which it was launched, or execute an intentional flight termination at its current location. It is important that air traffic controllers know where and how all aircraft are operating so they can ensure the safe separation of aircraft in their airspace.18 FAA and MITRE have been measuring the impacts of lost link on national airspace safety and efficiency, but the standardization of lost link procedures, for both small and large UAS, has not been finalized. Currently, according to FAA, each COA has a specific lost link procedure unique to that particular operation and air traffic controllers should have a copy for reference at all times. Until procedures for a lost link scenario have been standardized across all types of UAS, air traffic controllers must rely on the lost link procedures established in each COA to know what a particular UAS will do in such a scenario.

Dedicated Radio-Frequency Spectrum

Progress has been made in obtaining additional dedicated radio-frequency spectrum for UAS operations, but additional dedicated spectrum, including satellite spectrum, is still needed to ensure secure and continuous communications for both small and large UAS operations. The lack of protected radio-frequency spectrum for UAS operations heightens the possibility that a pilot could lose command and control of a UAS. Unlike manned aircraft—which use dedicated, protected radio frequencies—UAS currently use unprotected radio spectrum and, like any other wireless technology, remain vulnerable to unintentional or intentional interference. This remains a key security and safety vulnerability because, in contrast to a manned aircraft in which the pilot has direct physical control of the aircraft, interruption of radio transmissions can sever the UAS’s only means of control. UAS stakeholders are working to develop and validate hardware and standards for communications operating in allocated spectrum. For example, FAA’s UAS Research Management Plan identified 13 activities designed to mitigate command, control, and communication obstacles. One effort focused on characterizing the capacity and performance impact of UAS operations on air-traffic-control communications systems. In addition, according to NASA, it is developing, in conjunction with Rockwell Collins, a prototype radio for control and a non-payload communications data link that would provide secure communications.

GPS Jamming and Spoofing

The jamming of the GPS signal being transmitted to the UAS could also interrupt the command and control of UAS operations. In a GPS jamming scenario, the UAS could potentially lose its ability to determine its location, altitude, and the direction in which it is traveling.19 Low cost devices that jam GPS signals are prevalent. According to one industry expert, GPS jamming would become a larger problem if GPS is the only method for navigating a UAS. This problem can be mitigated by having a second or redundant navigation system onboard the UAS that is not reliant on GPS, which is the case with larger UAS typically operated by DOD and DHS.

Encrypting civil GPS signals could make it more difficult to “spoof” or counterfeit a GPS signal that could interfere with the navigation of a UAS. Non-military GPS signals, unlike military GPS signals, are not encrypted and transparency and predictability make them vulnerable to being counterfeited, or spoofed. In a GPS-spoofing scenario, the GPS signal going from the ground control station to the UAS is first counterfeited and then overpowered. Once the authentic (original) GPS signal is overpowered, the UAS is partially under the control of the “spoofer.” This type of scenario was recently demonstrated by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin at the behest of DHS. During the demonstration at the White Sands Missile Range, researchers spoofed one element of the unencrypted GPS signal of a fairly sophisticated small UAS (mini-helicopter) and induced it to plummet toward the desert floor. The research team found that it was straightforward to mount an intermediate-level spoofing attack, such as controlling the altitude of the UAS, but difficult and expensive to mount a more sophisticated attack. The research team recommended that spoof-resistant navigation systems be required on UAS exceeding 18 pounds.

Human Factors

UAS stakeholders have been working to develop solutions to human factor issues for both small and large UAS. According to FAA, human factors research examines the interaction between people, machines, and the environment to improve performance and reduce errors. Human factors are important for UAS operations as the pilot and aircraft are not collocated. The separation of pilot and aircraft creates a number of issues, including loss of sensory cues valuable for flight control, delays in control and communications loops, and difficulty in scanning the visual environment surrounding the unmanned aircraft. As part of its UAS Integration in the National Airspace System Project, NASA is working to develop human factor guidelines for ground control stations and plans to share the results with RTCA SC-203 to inform recommended guidelines. In addition, the Department of the Army is working to develop universal ground control stations, which would allow UAS pilots to fly different types of UAS without having to be trained on multiple configurations of a ground control station.

Source: GAO

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Yen Cross's picture

 Yes Modenas your [IQ} Supersedes mine. Happy now?

cherry picker's picture

My Drone is a replica of an old biplane complete with guns to defend itself against other drones.

Seeing as these things are not alive, I don't suppose having my drone shoot down another drone can't be anything worse than a misdemeanor and it won't be me they can charge as they won't know who controls my drone.

I am going to call my drone the Red Baron  :)

Yen Cross's picture

  That is some good "  Hell Fire"...

Schmuck Raker's picture

"America, FUCK YEAH!!!"

Yen Cross's picture

 fUCKIN "A"  tHIS SHIT retarded

FreeMktFisherMN's picture

I should ask some of the most vehement deniers of .gov having evil intentions about this as well as why do all these .gov agencies buy up all this ammo as they have been?

Stuffs And Stuff's picture

If you insist. I wouldn't bother, personally; people like that are notoriously irrational and misinformed. If they can't already see that the government isn't serving the will of the people and is instead serving their own interests, then there isn't much luck for them, in my experience.

The only possible way they will awaken is when they're dragged off to a FEMA camp, and even then I imagine that many will still believe it's for their benefit. Even if the government starts droning US civilians and shooting them with hollow point rounds, they'll probably believe they were 'terrorists', anyway.

The only thing more amazing than how ridiculous this circus is, is how many people blindly trust in it.

Yen Cross's picture

Do Not even think about meeting ME!

 I'll tear yoUr rectum out!

Vlad Tepid's picture

What are you even talking about?

smart girl's picture

Glad to see so many uses for academia.

smart girl's picture

It's beyond beyond.

AnAnonymous's picture

'Americans' are polarized on the issue of drones?

Must be same pony show as their two party show. Staged opposition.

CaptainObvious's picture

Says the Chinese citizen citizenism who has had only one party since the grand and glorious revolution that ended in 1949.  What are you Chinese polarized about?  Which side of the road to take a big steaming dump on, mayhap?

NOTfromSanFrancisco's picture


"One can rest assured that America is truly well defended, if mostly from enemies domestic."

(But not from our worst domestic POTUS enemy...)

ebworthen's picture

Fuck the drones.

New hobby for patriots in the U.S.A. - learn how to down a drone.

Zosynspiracy's picture

Chris Dorner haha!  What a f'ing putz!  I mean look at this idiot.........rants and raves about the LAPD and how corrupt and vile they are yet can't even manage to take any out before he offs himself like a coward.  And people are calling that fat slob a hero???????  Haha that shows just how pathetic America has become!  The Chris Dorner's of the world become heroes and the Ron Pauls of the world become "kooky" old guys. 


Zosynspiracy's picture

And who the hell do you think invented these stupid drones?  AMERICAN ENGINEERS and INNOVATORS!  American companies!  Some fk'ing nerd working at an American company was bragging on the internet how he invented a 360 degree camera that can be posted in the average streetlight for law enforcement purposes. 

It's our fellow Americans who are selling us all out.  Stupid MIT fucks with nothing better to do comping up with all this high technology surveillence crap.  We act like some sort of alien entity is inventing all this shit.  It's your neighbor, your uncle, etc. who's working for these defense companies.  I have a bumble fk neighbor who works for Monsanto..........he buys "organic".  Go f'ing figure!  American idiots! 

stant's picture

now you know why they did away with the old uhf vhf tv. they need those channles. nost predator drones have a 914 rotax engine 135 max top speed but cruz is about 80. the reapers have a honywell 950 hp turbo prop and 300 top speed. let the gears start turning

MickV's picture

Outing the domestic enemy Usurper in the Whitehouse is the first step in restoring the Republic. Other than that this is all whining, and the beatings will continue. As long as he sits in the chair there is no US Citizen sovereignty, and no law. Get a clue TD!!! Speak the truth and it will set you free. The Usurper Obama is a national security risk controlled by foreign agents, and is illegally leading the US military.

Obama was born BRITISH, of a British subject father, and is not an eligible natural born Citizen, even if born in the WH.

If non citizen parents could birth children in America, and that child is eligible for POTUS, then Amadinejad could marry an American women and get her pregnant, have the child in the US, and that child would be eligible. Think about it. The natural born Citizen requirement is about national security. The NWO needed a non eligible frontman in order to put the final pieces in place for your enslavement.. When the POTUS, who is the executor of the law, is ineligible then there is no law-- except for we, but not for they.

spanish inquisition's picture

Coming soon based on USA rules. Mexico will use drones to bomb gun and munitions makers in the US that supply Mexican gangs. Argentina will use them to bomb US vulture hedge funds. In an effort to stem the world drug trade, a group of countries will band together and take out CIA headquarters with drones. The WH will send out a memo stating that their rules were not to be used against the USA, just people and groups the WH didn't like.

bunnyswanson's picture

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vzTXtRi9Kc (Texas mystery missile)

Mystery missles, baby!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ5pnAFducY (California mystery missile)

Asteroids with comtrails, bitchez!




working class dog's picture

The second part of the new dictatorship combined with Drone strikes, are the massive buying of ammon by the government (causing a shortage of public ammo available)

Raytheon RIOT system (data mining super computer system) with a couple of clicks of a mouse the government can find out the last 10 places you visited in the past day, how you relate to facebook aquaintances, and what your interests are on twitter, the more you use these sites the easier you are making it for big brother to reel you in.

Achtung mein fuherer!

TrumpXVI's picture

In my case, that's a good thing, wcd.  

My life is so boring that anyone who investigated the last ten places I visited would probably be dead from boredom before they got past #6.

TrumpXVI's picture

Don't drone me, bro!

sbenard's picture

In my state, universities have been the first in line to sign up for drones! What does that portend?

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Some FAA background on this.

That is just general information.



Current operational approval policies for the FAA and UAS (aka drones).



What is of interest in the flowchart on page 43 of the document.

Keep in mind language also.

For COA requirements, let us go to the last part of the flow chart.

At least as far as it is concerned no if the operation wholly contained within 12 NM of the US coastline you need a COA.

Like always they leave an opening for domestic use without use of a COA and declaring due regard (at least the way I read it, rebuttals welcome in the name of truth). All the DOD needs to do is fly a drone outside that 12mm limit and inside as part of the mission then invoke "due regard" to fly armed drones over U.S. airspace that is regulated by the FAA. That is a loophole that needs to be addressed.

Here is some information on "due regard"


Official FAA rules including "due regard"


DUE REGARD? A phase of flight wherein an
aircraft commander of a State-operated aircraft
assumes responsibility to separate his/her aircraft
from all other aircraft.
(See also FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 1?2?1, WORD

o. Flight operations in accordance with the options
of “due regard” or “operational” obligates the
authorized state aircraft commander to:
1. Separate his/her aircraft from all other
air traffic; and
2. Assure that an appropriate monitoring agency
assumes responsibility for search and rescue actions;
3. Operate under at least one of the following
(a) In visual meteorological conditions
(VMC); or
(b) Wthin radar surveillance and radio
communications of a surface radar facility; or
(c) Be equipped with airborne radar that is
sufficient to provide separation between his/her
aircraft and any other aircraft he/she may be
controlling and other aircraft; or
(d) Operate within Class G airspace.
(e) An understanding between the pilot and
controller regarding the intent of the pilot and the
status of the flight should be arrived at before the
aircraft leaves ATC frequency.

jjsilver's picture

everyone else is split whether or not this remote-controlled form of international retribution and global Pax Americna should be allowed over the territory of the US


You must mean the american people don't want them and the federal government does.

Had to get that little jab in there about Iran didn't ya.