The drone that buzzed Fenway Park is a “wake-up call” to Congress to regulate the unmanned aircraft before there’s a tragedy, two former police commissioners told the Herald.
The warning comes just days before the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon — where drones have been banned by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“At the moment, this is a mess. Nobody has the authority to take drones down,” said William J. Bratton, a former police commissioner in Boston and New York City and former chief of police in Los Angeles. “I’m willing to bet there will be drone incursions over the marathon. It’s worrisome.
“Unfortunately, it will probably take a tragedy to get Congress to act. This is a wake-up call,” said Bratton, now head of risk advisory at Teneo in New York City.
The NFL, he added, is concerned, as are other professional sports teams. Drones in flight paths near airports are also causing chaos around the country. Boston police, state police and the FAA are investigating Thursday night’s drone infiltration over Fenway.
State police said they will have drones on standby for the marathon, with department spokesman David Procopio adding: “We have counter-drone capabilities that we will utilize on Monday if necessary.”
Edward Davis, a former Boston police commissioner currently a private security consultant, said the top priority is for police to find the person behind the controls of the drone that swooped over Fenway. He agreed with Bratton that long-term solutions need to follow quickly.
“It’s a very difficult problem and there’s no effective strategy right now,” Davis said. “This is happening in other locations and, thankfully, it has not resulted in any ordnance being dropped.”
Falcons trained to knock drones out of the sky have been tested by the Air Force while Japanese police have been using drones equipped with nets to trap illegal flights.
Still, Bratton said Congress needs to act to protect fans at open-air events.
“It’s an incredible technology that can be used for good, but also for criminal and terrorist purposes,” Bratton said. “Congress and the FAA are being too slow to act. They need to get into this. Every community will need to get into it.”
He added ISIS has already learned how to weaponize drones and others can’t be too far behind.
Both Bratton and Davis said shooting a drone out of the sky isn’t always the perfect solution either, because it can still drop a bomb on those below.
“The challenge is to differentiate between the nitwit and the terrorist,” Bratton added.
The operator who broke the law and flew a drone over Fenway could face jail time and a $250,000 fine. That, Davis said, is the best deterrent today.
A spokesman for DJI Technology Inc., the company that makes the type of drone that buzzed Fenway, said they are assisting.
“We are trying to learn more about what happened, and stand ready to work with Boston police and other security agencies,” said DJI’s Adam Lisberg. He said the drone was a DJI Phantom.
Lisberg added: “Whoever flew this drone over the stadium apparently overrode our geofencing system and deliberately violated the FAA temporary flight restriction in place over the game.”