OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. – Officials say an Air Force base south of Omaha has expanded its defenses against drones and can stop any that venture within its boundaries of airspace.
A news release from the Offutt Air Force Base says it now has "a number of unique defense systems" to protect against drones, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The release doesn't go into specifics.
"Our mission is to ensure the safety and security of resources and personnel on base and this is just one method of keeping pace with an ever-evolving threat," said Lt. Col. William Smith, commander of the 55th Security Forces Squadron at the base.
Drones are entirely off-limits within 3 miles (5 kilometers) of the base's airfield. Drone use between 3 miles and the edge of its Federal Aviation Administration airspace at 5 miles (8 kilometers) is very limited.
The message follows recent guidance from the Pentagon that lays out the military's authority to disable or shoot down any drone that violates airspace restrictions over a U.S. base. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said a classified policy covering drones had been approved in August.
Davis said the policy details the actions the military can take to stop any threat, including destroying or seizing any unmanned aircraft flown over a base.
"The increase of commercial and private drones in the U.S. has raised our concerns with regards to safety and security of our installations," he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration estimated last year that there are about 1.1 million drones in use. The agency predicted the number could grow to 4.5 million by 2021.
Davis said the military has always been authorized to defend the bases and troops, "but this I think makes it a little more solidified with what we're able to do."
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com