Some military drones are “particularly susceptible” to having their video tapped, a senior military officer tells Danger Room. That’s because these smaller unmanned aircraft — like the Shadow, Hunter, and Raven — broadcast their surveillance footage constantly and in every direction. All you have to do, basically, is stand within “line of sight” of the drone, and you can tap in. “It’s like criminals using radio scanners to pick up police communications,” the senior officer says.
Larger aircraft — both manned and unmanned — are a little less vulnerable. They can shut off their video feeds if no friendly forces are watching at the time. And they can “neck down” those omnidirectional signals a bit. So it’s more difficult to intercept the transmission. The officer contends that there have “not been any significant — not any impact — on operations as a result of this.”
Still, systems like the ROVER (and the Predator, for that matter) were “built to be cheap. They used commercial off-the-shelf hardware. We wanted to get stuff out there. So it’s not gonna be perfect,” the officer adds. “So yeah, if we’re broadcasting in the electromagnetic spectrum and you’re underneath the footprint, you can receive it. Duh-uhhhh.”