From crop dusting to package delivery, commercial drones are about to become a part of everyday life. "Just in the last 18 months, we've registered twice as many unmanned aircraft (as) we registered all aircraft from the previous 100 years," said Earl Lawrence, director of the Federal Aviation Administration's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office. To safely integrate the vast numbers of new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation's airspace, the FAA is relying on a group of 23 research institutions led by Mississippi State University. The Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) is conducting in-depth studies on virtually every aspect of drone operations, including air traffic control, pilot certification and crash avoidance. "What happens when a drone hits a wing or a windshield or any other part of the aircraft is (one) of our key questions," Lawrence said.
As the battlefield use of commercial drones by ISIS extremists becomes more prevalent and sophisticated, there is growing concern that these unmanned aircraft systems could be used in terror attacks inside the U.S. Drones, relatively inexpensive and easily purchased online or at a local big-box retail store, have been modified by ISIS fighters to drop grenades or to surveil troop movements overseas. The terror group continues to bolster its use of weaponized and surveillance drones against Iraqi and U.S. forces. In April, U.S. Central Command told Fox News that coalition troops have as many as 30 encounters a week with unmanned aerial vehicles. In fact, ISIS announced the formation of a new drone warfare unit in January, whose sole purpose is to inflict "a new source of horror for the apostates." And, according to a January report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point "we should expect the Islamic State to refine its drone bomb-drop capability.