The loss of a super secret US spy drone recently in Iran has drawn attention to the unreliability of drones. The Drones Crash Database has catalogued a large number of known drone crashes, and there must have been many more crashes and ‘loss of control events’ which are unreported in conflict zones like Afghanistan.
Anna Mulrine, of the Christian Science Monitor, reported recently in Alaska Dispatch.com, on the problem of unreliable drones.
One of the problems of drones is the long and complicated communication networks needed to control drones remotely, and their vulnerability to failure and disruption. Another problem is the two second delay that occurs in electronic signals from drone operators in the US to drone being used in Central Asia or the Middle East, and back again. (Much like the scene in a digital camera that changes after the shutter is pressed but before the picture is taken a drone operator is always two seconds behind what is happening where the drone is).
Blogger Jeffery Carr, has reported on studies by the US government that detail the reliability of drones. Drones are particularly vulnerable to disruption in satellite communications, and may be vulnerable to cyber attacks, which is the technique that Iran claims to have used to capture the American MQ-170 drone earlier this month.
David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen, re-reporting information published in the Christian Science Monitor describes an Iranian scientist who claims that Iran reprogrammes GPS coordinate and jams satellite communications to trick American drones into landing.
Interestingly, there have been no new drone strikes in Pakistan in the past month, though this is likely due more to the fallout of from the disintegrating relations with Pakistan than concerns over drones being captured.