DHS Reference Aid on Illicit Uses of Drones and Model Aircraft

The following document was obtained from the website of the Stadium Managers Association.  Products from the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis are not marked with any distribution restrictions, though they are not released publicly.

Model Aircraft Reference Aid

Page Count: 2 pages
Date: December 2014
Restriction: Distribution Restricted
Originating Organization: Department of Homeland Security, Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis
File Type: pdf
File Size: 246,015 bytes
File Hash (SHA-256): A1D429EEF7CF955ACD61253D7723CFC3E25CAE3D2E130846293331982EBE8A1C

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Model Aircraft are custom built or commercially produced unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that meet the statutory definition of Model Aircraft and operate in accordance with the statutory requirements for Model Aircraft. These are sometimes referred to as radio controlled airplanes or aircraft and usually require one individual for operational control. Some Model Aircraft are capable of sustained flight for approximately 2 hours or less depending on the type of Model Aircraft (Rotary or Fixed Wing) and power source (e.g. nitromethane, lithium ion, and lithium polymer batteries). Model Aircraft must be flown within visual line of sight of the operator; however, there is an increasing use of first person view technology that allows operation to occur beyond line of sight and at altitudes in excess of several hundred feet.


• Surveillance and Reconnaissance
• Air Traffic Disruption
• Smuggling or Pre-Positioning Supplies
• Chemical, biological, or radiological agent dispersal
• Harassment or Diversionary device
• Kinetic Attack (small arm or explosives)


• Injury or death
• Damage to infrastructure
• Theft or disclosure of private information
• Disruption of air traffic
• Hindering activity of first responders
• Circumvention of ground-based security

Although some of these potential indicators may be benign, when several are observed, or when conducted in concert with other indicators, they may suggest an attempt to acquire or employ Model Aircraft for illicit purposes.


• Novice primarily interested in high performance and technically advanced models (e.g. payload, range, and flight time) at the point of purchase
• Novice inquiries about exceeding manufacturer specifications


• Flying near restricted spaces
• Flying near first responders
• GPS measurements in unusual locations


• Eliciting information on hobbyist forums concerning payload and weaponization
• Explosives and biological/chemical agent research


• Attempts to incorporate nonstandard equipment
• Attempts to exceed manufacturer specifications

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