US intelligence reveals drone attack on grid

Drone flying in the sky with clouds behind it (russian)
Image: Shutterstock

A newly-released intelligence bulletin, obtained by ABC News, reveals a plot involving a drone attack on the electrical grid in northeastern United States in July 2020.

The drone, which crashed atop a building near a Pennsylvania power substation last year, was likely intended to disrupt operations by creating a short circuit to damage transformers, according to the memo from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center.

The drone was a consumer model modified with a thick copper trailing wire attached to it. If the wire had come into contact with high-voltage equipment it could have caused a short circuit, equipment failures and possibly fires.

According to New Scientist, the device is similar in concept to ”blackout bombs” used by the US Air Force, which have no explosive but scatter masses of conductive filaments over electrical equipment. These were used to shut down 70 per cent of Serbia’s electricity generation capacity in 1999 during the Kosovo war.

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The intelligence memo was based on a review of drone incidents dating back to 2017, with concerns raised over the illicit use of drones over energy infrastructure and other potential targets.

Officials believe it’s the first known instance of a drone being used to deliberately damage US energy structure, with the person responsible removing the camera, memory card, and all markings to conceal their identity.

Federal officials tell CNN they are distributing the intelligence bulletin now to “raise awareness” about the incident and the general threat of drones to critical infrastructure.

A video on the drone attack can be viewed here.

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