Since 2015, the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) market has exploded; once an exclusively military domain, it is now also aimed at the private and public sectors. As a consequence, the availability of inexpensive UAS platforms that can be weaponized or outfitted with surveillance equipment has also become an attractive tool to terrorists and criminals. This thesis examines the question, How can local law enforcement protect their communities from UASs operated by careless hobbyists, criminals, and other nefarious actors, such as foreign and domestic terrorists? This thesis assessed the risk UASs pose to public safety, examined counter-UAS (C-UAS) technology currently available, and explored the limitations of C-UAS technology when deployed over urban areas. The thesis found that although the threat UAS platforms pose to urban areas is credible, C-UAS measures are available that local law enforcement can use to mitigate the risk. However, the thesis found that some forms of C-UAS technology have limitations when deployed over urban areas. In conclusion, the thesis recommends that local law enforcement consider UAS threats when conducting jurisdictional risk assessments, explore C-UAS technology and its limitations before procurement and implementation, and develop a C-UAS strategy that ensures measures taken are necessary, effective, and appropriate. The thesis provides a decision matrix to assist local law enforcement in their efforts to develop a C-UAS strategy.
Rollins, John W. Dahl, Erik J.
Security Studies (Homeland Security and Defense)
Naval Postgraduate School
Master of Arts in Security Studies (Homeland Security and Defense)
National Security Affairs (NSA)
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