Federal nuclear weapons plants getting capability to disable drones

Federal nuclear weapons facilities are getting systems to disable drones or any other unauthorized unmanned aircraft systems flying over restricted airspace.

Officials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory say they're testing a new system that could serve as a model for other federal installations.

The technology is coming to the federal government's Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a spokesman said.

Y-12 to get drone-stopping capability

“The Y-12 National Security Complex and its sister site at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, are among the national security facilities around the nation where this capability will be employed," said Steve Wyatt, a spokesperson for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), told the USA TODAY NETWORK -Tennessee on Thursday.. "At this point, we have no further comment.”

The airspace over the New Mexico lab received an additional no drone zone designation by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"All airspace over the laboratory is protected right now against unauthorized drone or UAS flights (unmanned aircraft systems)," said Michael Lansing, head of the lab's security operations. "We can detect and track a UAS and if it poses a threat we have the ability to disrupt control of the system, seize or exercise control, confiscate, or use reasonable force to disable, damage or destroy the UAS."

The lab worked with the National Nuclear Security Administration and the FAA to implement the system. The NNSA received authorization from Congress last year to implement enhanced security measures to protect its sites from drones.

"Implementation guidance by NNSA focuses on high-level actions to be taken to detect, identify, track and mitigate drones that pose a threat to NNSA covered facilities," said Lewis Monroe, director of NNSA's Office of Security Operations and Programmatic Planning.

Blueprint for other sites

The lab's Counter-UAS program will serve as a blueprint for other programs planned for the Pantex Plant in Texas, the Y-12 facility in Tennessee and the National Nuclear Security Site in Nevada.

The NNSA has defined drone activity as threatening "if unabated, could inflict or otherwise cause physical harm to a person; inflict or otherwise cause damage to property or systems; interfere with the operational mission of a covered facility or asset; conduct unauthorized surveillance or reconnaissance; or result in unauthorized access to, or disclosure of, classified or otherwise lawfully protected information."

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Brittany Crocker

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Published June 15, 2018