Early in December, Iran made the news for claiming it had brought down a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). While speculation continues to circle around how the drone was brought down, it is now time to look at what could have been done to protect such sensitive technology on America's end.
The U.S. military is the most advanced fighting force in the world, one that has shifted its overall strategy to a system which integrates remote-controlled vehicles performing a range of duties, both for combative purposes and reconnaissance.
The drone that ended up in Iran's possession is now Iran’s key to uncloaking America's sensitive military technology. Had some simple safeguards been put in place to avoid this breach of security, this would not be the case. I believe there could have been some measures taken to ensure that the drone could have been rendered useless to anyone wishing to gain information from it, especially some kind of kill-switch to destroy any software and computer hardware that would be of use to nations wishing to pursue its own UAV fleet.
There would be no harm in looking into a kill-switch mechanism to be used in remote controlled vehicles in case a similar incident like this happened in the future. This would mean any vehicle — from the Explosive Ordinance Disposal robots to the most lethal and sophisticated Predator drones — could be equipped to self-destruct any valuable bits of technology should a situation arise where termination of the vehicle would benefit America's security interests.
In the past, UAV video feeds, live visual information taken from a camera on the craft, have been tapped into by people who simply had to get $26-worth of technology and software.
In November the Air Force reported that there were viruses infecting the "cockpits" of these drones — control booths where pilots fly the UAVs thousands of miles away from the combat zone. These viruses were dismissed as something that could not interfere with operations. But this should be a concern to everyone involved simply because of the threat it poses to our efficiency, effectiveness and reliability with our unmanned vehicle fleet.
Speculation has risen that Iran will reverse-engineer the drone and then sell the technology it develops to nations like China and Russia. From a national security standpoint, this is not a good thing. Such advanced technology in the wrong hands could result in disaster.
While it is fair to say that each nation has its own right to build any sort of military vehicles, it was a big slip on America's part to not fit such sensitive technology with the means to render itself useless should a situation like this arise.
As for the current situation, the drone is lost and in Iranian hands and Iranian officials have already dismissed any possibility of returning the technology to America.
The military should have any unmanned vehicles fitted with the means to self-destruct to avoid another drone dilemma similar to the one we now see with Iran. If America's military wishes to foolproof its hardware and software, measures must be taken to ensure no usable American technology ends up in the wrong hands again.
Here are some questions that remain:
Why, with all the technology America has, were measures not taken to protect secret technologies should they fall into an aggressor's hands?
And what measures could be taken to ensure a breach of information like this does not occur again?
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons