Federal regulations state that drones fly no higher than 400 feet and keep at least five miles from an airport. But violations abound, and police and federal agencies fear their potential for a nefarious use—against an airplane, or on a Times Square crowd, for instance. Sources tell Reuters those authorities are working on ways to thwart such drones—and police have even tested such technology in one instance. The goal: track and commandeer the drone and fly it away from a given area and back to its operator, who can then be IDed. The nascent technology to do so has been tested at least once, per a source. On New Year's Eve, a drone redirect was reportedly attempted in Times Square by the NYPD, but they faced problems because of the media broadcasts that were occurring.
As one retired Marine, an electronic warfare expert, explains, " You need enough power to override the transmitter. If I just jam it so it can’t receive signals, it’s probably going to crash. But if I know the transmission codes the drone is using, I can control that object." Reuters notes only 10% of unauthorized drone sightings last year resulted in that drone's operator being IDed. The Department of Homeland Security confirms that it "works side-by-side with our interagency partners" to address rising concerns about drones, while the other agencies declined comment. (In California, private drones have slowed officials' ability to fight wildfires, as in this case.)