Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), like drones, are among the major transformational technologies that are expanding in their range of beneficial applications, but they can also pose a significant threat to nuclear facilities. The benefits are clear – photography, videography, delivery services, and the recreational enjoyment of flight. But as the technology continues to evolve, so too does its potential to be adapted for malicious purposes.
According to the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), there are currently over 1.5 million UASs registered in the United States (FAA, 2020). That’s a lot of opportunity for misuse. The possible impact on the nuclear industry should not be discounted.
We are the first step in countering the UAS threat.
Several recent incidents in different parts of the world have demonstrated that the threat posed by UAS is real: UASs entering restricted airspace, nearing protected installations, photographing secure facilities, and interfering with existing radio signals, operations, and flight paths. While UASs are becoming a ‘game-changer’ for security of nuclear facilities, USA Nuclear is taking the first step in coordinating a response. We are comprehensively and systematically identifying research and development needs to improve nuclear facility security against drones and other unmanned aerial systems.
USA Nuclear supports NNSA efforts to develop a Federal program to counter the threat posed by UAS.
In support of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Global Material Security (GMS) mission under International Nuclear Security (INS), the counter-unmanned aerial systems (CUAS) program will provide the technical underpinning for INS activities that assess and address the need for CUAS and further develop the framework and components of engagements with international partners on CUAS.
Defining mission objectives is key to the protection of critical infrastructure. In alignment with mission goals, the following four CUAS program objectives are defined:
- Mitigate UAS threats to nuclear facilities
- Strengthen global nuclear security norms and best practices
- Enhance nuclear security engagements and training related to CUAS
- Support nuclear security enhancements and infrastructure
The focus of this program is to tailor country engagements to match their individual level of awareness of a UAS threat; provide appropriate expertise, guidance and technical assistance; and grow capabilities in dealing with the threat. At the same time, standardization of the country-level approach will be sought wherever possible, and in coordination with broader engagement, to ensure efficiency of operations. Together, we’ll propel the nuclear industry to the forefront of CUAS activities – keeping our critical infrastructures secure.