Small Unmanned Aircraft: Characterizing the Threat

February 2019
Topics: Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Unmanned Systems, Aviation Security, Data Analytics
Andrew R. Lacher, The MITRE Corporation
Jonathan B. Baron, The MITRE Corporation
Jonathan B. Rotner, The MITRE Corporation
Dr. Michael A. Balazs, The MITRE Corporation
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For several years, The MITRE Corporation has been exploring issues associated with the potential security threats that small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) present. In 2016, MITRE sponsored a competition during which eight commercial companies demonstrated in a real-world setting the effectiveness of their detect and defeat capabilities against commonly available sUAS operating in an unauthorized fashion.

As part of that effort, MITRE began to describe the potential threat posed by sUAS using a variety of characteristics. MITRE experts have continued to evolve this threat spectrum as we work on counter-UAS-related tasks for our sponsors and as we research the ever-evolving technology and operational capabilities of sUAS. In this paper, MITRE uses data-driven observations to characterize the sUAS threat. This paper does not assess the sUAS threat, nor does it discuss potential targets or vulnerabilities from national defense, homeland security, law enforcement, or commercial industry perspectives. MITRE is sharing our sUAS threat characterization to help the community understand the nature of potential sUAS threats and to provide a common vernacular for discussing the technical challenges associated with detecting and defeating them.

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