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Chicago Anti-Terrorism Official Calls for a ‘Counter-Drone Program’

The head of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications said Wednesday that the city needs better technology to cope with the emerging threat the devices pose.

John Byrne, Chicago Tribune / October 25, 2016
Public safety officials are concerned that drones pose a significant risk to big events, like the annual Lollapalooza event in Chicago. (Flickr/Sara Cooper PR)

(TNS) —  Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s emergency management commissioner wants the city to start a “counter-drone program” to deal with potentially dangerous remote-controlled machines being flown over Lollapalooza, the Chicago Marathon or other events.

Alicia Tate-Nadeau, head of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said Wednesday that the city needs better technology to cope with the emerging threat that drones pose.

“One of the things I would like to do is, if you look at what’s going on internationally and nationally, drones are being used to put different explosive devices on, etc. So from a public safety standpoint, I would really like to see us venture into a counter-drone program,” Tate-Nadeau said during her annual city council budget hearing when asked about drones spotted over Grant Park during Lollapalooza. “So if you had individuals, like you just mentioned, that are flying drones over the heads of the public, I would like to see us have the technology to defend against that.”

Tate-Nadeau said her agency has a security grant from which she could use money to fund such a program. She said the city needs to be ready to deal with “tethered balloons, fixed-wing, rotary-wing” drones but did not say exactly what such a capability would entail or how much it would cost.

“I believe that we need to look at a solution that covers everyone from a public safety standpoint,” she said.

“I’ve got to have a better way, whenever a drone is following folks over the marathon, I should not have to put up a helicopter to chase a drone,” she said. “There is better technology out there.”

After her hearing, Tate-Nadeau said it’s too early to commit to a particular plan to deal with drones. She said there is technology available that allows people on the ground to remotely hack into drone computers and implant them with orders to fly back to the person operating them. “But at this point, I just want us to be thinking about these issues and considering how to address them,” she said.

The city already has laws prohibiting drones from being flown over parks, schools, churches and other places without approval, but because the devices can be controlled remotely from great distances, enforcing those rules has proved extremely difficult.

©2018 the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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