AUSTIN (KXAN) - Drones that can roam and scan the skies are said to be the wave of the future.
But there may be a downside that can threaten our security. Researchers at the University of Texas have found a way to hack into these aircraft -- and it's getting the attention of members of Congress.
Up above in our skies drones fly around providing surveillance information. The military has been using these unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, for years.
In May, the Federal Aviation Administration relaxed the rules trying to convert drones from the military world into everyday uses.
Researchers said that in a few years as many as 30,000 drones could be flying around helping in everything from agriculture to delivering food.
But a discovery by a group of UT researchers is raising eyebrows at the highest levels in Washington over who can take control of these drones, which are operated by GPS.
"We found that we can take over the navigation," said Daniel Shepard, a researcher at UT. "And that means we can manipulate the position as we desire."
The team figured out how to tap into a drone's GPS, manipulating and controlling where they can go and taking over the brains behind the system.
"It's an important vulnerability to look at when you are looking to incorporate these civil drones into the national air space," said Shepard.
While it would take much more work to hack military drones, GPS "spoofing" can still create a national disaster with the ability to crash power generators and cell phone towers as well.
"We need to get into motion some federal mandates for protection against spoofing," said Shepard.
UT researchers will present their findings on Thursday to Congress in hopes of sending them a message before these drones fill our skies.
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