Wednesday, July 29, 2015

US Military's Bomb Techs Fear Flying IEDs

US Military's Bomb Techs Fear Flying IEDs: The US military's explosive ordnance disposal community, bedeviled by roadside bombs in recent wars, is girding for a new threat: flying drones as IEDs.

The crash landing of a hobbyist's quadcopter on the grounds of the White House in January has sparked fears that a low-tech enemy like the Islamic State could harness such a device to deliver a bomb — and that explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) techs would have to confront it.

"I personally believe that the unmanned platform is going to be one of the most important weapons of our age," Navy Capt. Vincent Martinez, commander of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) EOD Technology Division, said. "I'm going to have to start thinking not only about how I defuse the payload but how I defuse the platform. When I walk up on that platform, is it watching me, is it sensing me, is it waiting for me?"

Though the quadcopter's crash landing was an accident, and no one was hurt, Martinez noted the drone's 6-pound payload could have been full of explosives.

"Imagine the media event if it lands on top of the White House and detonates, whether it kills anybody or not," Martinez said. "The signal is sent. Add C4 [plastic explosive] to that, and it's a pretty big bang."

Members of the military's EOD community said they are concerned enemies will harness technology quicker and in new ways, and that they must be vigilant and streamline acquisitions in order to keep pace. The National Defense Industrial Association on Tuesday and Wednesday held its annual EOD conference in Bethesda, Maryland, where officials discussed the issue.