President Donald Trump’s new drone technology plans and policies won’t be enough to restore U.S. leadership in the sector, according to a former intelligence official who helped Ronald Reagan amp up critical American missile defense technology during the Cold War.
What’s more, the policies won’t help protect American lives and interests from drone-based terrorist attacks, Michael Sekora, former director of Project Socrates, told SiliconANGLE in an interview. The classified Defense Intelligence Agency tech initiative is often credited with transforming Reagan’s stalled “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative vision into a multitiered technology that leapfrogged Soviet missile defense technology in the late 1980s.
Sekora’s commentary arrives in the wake of news this past week that yet another American drone hardware effort is grounded: On Monday, GoPro Inc. became the third major American drone company to quit the drone hardware business. Lily Robotics Inc. and 3D Robotics Inc. shuttered their respective drone hardware plans in 2017, citing hard competition from Chinese drone behemoth, Dà-Jiāng Innovations.
DJI controlled more than 70 percent of all commercial drone sales last year, according to Federal Aviation Administration numbers released in November. Those losses are humbling, Sekora said, when you consider that the U.S. all but created the drone sector and wielded near-monopoly control over it for years after its first public use of military attack drones in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Terrorist drone attacks coming
But U.S. monopoly control over drone tech evaporated a long time ago. According to defense experts, some 90 nations now possess drone technology. And a third of those — including U.S. rivals such as China, North Korea and Iran — now also have full-blown weaponized military drones. Worse, terrorist organizations, rebel groups and other nonstate enemies have drones now, too, raising fears about potential drone-based terror attacks.
“Terrorist organizations have an interest in using drones, and we’ve seen that overseas already with some frequency,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers at a Senate Homeland Security hearing in September. “And the expectation is it’s coming here, too. Imminently.”