The FBI has warned that drones pose a potential threat to critical infrastructure after some were spotted over chemical facilities in Louisiana


Drones have been seen flying over chemical facilities and a pipeline in Louisiana for the past year and a half, prompting the FBI to warn Thursday about the potential for espionage and terrorism at critical infrastructure facilities, according to a report obtained by CNN.

“[O]verflights can be an effective means of monitoring critical infrastructure because facility security personnel and law enforcement officers have limited options to detect and respond to this type of drone activity, the report said.

For example, on July 29, observers saw multiple drones flying over a chemical facility in Louisiana at night. According to the report, the group of drones flew several feet above the facility before splitting in two directions.

Also, on March 8, 2021, a drone was found flying near a pipeline in Louisiana. A law enforcement officer tracked down the drone operator and discovered they had taken the photos, the report said. It’s unclear what, if any, law enforcement action he took.

According to the report, there is no indication of malicious activity directly threatening these facilities. However, drones could be used to document activity patterns or the physical layout of targeted critical infrastructure facilities, the report said.

The FBI encourages facility operators to contact their local office if industrial espionage, terrorism or other criminal activity is suspected.

“While most drone flights over infrastructure are innocent enough, it raises real safety, operational and security concerns. Drones are great tools, but they can also be used as explosive weapons today in the wrong hands,” said Brian Harrell, former assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security. to CNN

“Industry is well-versed in the tactics of mapping, monitoring and dropping missiles at critical sites and often deploys local situational awareness systems to provide early warning,” Harrell added.

Even when drones are seen, finding the drone operator can be difficult, according to the FBI report, which says that “current security measures on critical infrastructure may be undetectable. [unmanned aircraft systems] Determining what information a raid or UAS has collected.’

The report was prepared by the New Orleans FBI Office in coordination with several federal agencies, including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration, to alert critical infrastructure security personnel at chemical facilities to the continued threat of unmanned aerial systems.

Last year, CNN reported that a drone that crashed near a substation in Pennsylvania in 2020 was likely intended to damage or disrupt electrical equipment, according to a federal law enforcement bulletin.

The July 2020 incident was the first case of a “modified unmanned aerial vehicle system” being used to specifically target energy infrastructure in the United States, according to a statement from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center.