U.S. Secret Service conducts drone exercise

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

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The Associated Press (AP) reported on Tuesday the U.S. Secret Service is conducting drone exercises over Washington, D.C. to defend against unmanned aerial vehicles being flown over the area.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the Secret Service to conduct these flying exercises. The exercises are to be over parts of D.C. airspace which is normally off-limits below 18,000 feet, also called a no-fly aone or the D.C. flight restricted zone. The exercises are to take place in the very early morning hours over the next several weeks.

According to AP, a U.S. official speaking under condition of anonymity said the agency is testing these drones for law enforcement and to defend against potentially dangerous drones, but declined to comment on the specific details because they're classified. However, they sought to prevent concerns by possible witnesses by publicizing their intent to conduct tests. The agency is cautious of witnesses of unmanned aerial vehicles flying over D.C. because of a drone sighting incident several weeks ago. Witnesses saw several unidentified drones flying over Paris, France, which caused concerns.

AP said techniques to be tested include signal jamming. Most drones use radio-frequency signals for remote control. Intercepting these signals might allow tracking the drones. Jamming, though, could interrupt Wi-Fi of people in the vicinity.

The FAA last month announced preliminary guidelines requiring UAVs be operated within sight of the operator, prohibiting night flying, and requiring speeds below 100 miles per hour (about 160 kph) and altitudes below 500 feet.