, that ubiquitous specter of technological doom covering front pages everywhere, can indeed be hacked. Or at least spoofed, which is like hacking if all a hacker could do was give the drone new directions and sometimes make it crash. The most famous case of this is when Iran allegedly captured the United States's stealth drone RQ-170
, but similar stuff has happened stateside, too. Last summer, on a dare from the Department of Homeland security, students at University of Texas Austin spoofed a government drone
In 2015, the FAA will clear new airspace
for drones, and we'll truly be living in the drone age. Of course, researchers, police departments, and universities are already cleared to fly drones in plenty of places
in the United States, so the possibility of a rogue spoofed drone already exists. This is a big concern for Congress
, which wants to make sure that drones are not an excessive risk to add to our skies. The image of dozens of robots falling from above is nothing a politician wants to explain in a reelection campaign.
The threat level
You can only spoof one drone at a time, and there is only so much harm you can cause by feeding an unarmed machine the wrong GPS information. Given the average size of drones, like the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0
pictured here, the death total would be limited to one or two people. The story of Aeschylus
, an ancient Greek playwright who died when an eagle dropped a turtle on his bald head, suggests that death-by-flying object isn't impossible, but it is very unlikely.