Los Alamos lab to nuke (ish) drones violating its restricted airspace

los alamos drone

A friendly reminder to readers living or vacationing in New Mexico: Steer well clear of any nuclear research facilities you happen across. That is the unmistakable message coming from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is promising to smack down and confiscate any drones violating its off-limits airspace.

Los Alamos vows to take out drones violating airspace over the cradle of the US atomic firepower

On Monday, the birthplace of the US atom bomb stepped up to issue an unprecedented but pointed warning against uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) entering the area. Though it didn’t give details or numbers on apparently increasing violations, the Los Alamos lab did say more “(r)ecent unauthorized drone flights have been detected in this restricted airspace.” And to underline its unhappiness with ­and determination to halt those, it said officials will use the lab’s in-house anti-drone system to fell and impound errant craft.

“The drone flying public should be reminded that all airspace over the Laboratory is protected against unauthorized drone or UAS flights,” noted Unica Viramontes, senior director of security at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We can detect and track a UAS, and if it poses a threat, we have the ability to disrupt control of the system, seize or exercise control, confiscate, or use reasonable force to disable, damage or destroy the UAS.”

Claims of not having understood the warning won’t hold water with the above statement on record.

Eventual offenders also won’t get any sympathy or succor from other authorities involved. The lab is among the Federal Aviation Administration’s designated national security sensitive facilities, and listed as one of its “No Drone Zones.” The FAA is also a stakeholder in the facility’s Counter Unmanned Aircraft System that has previously been used to bring violating craft down and out.

That platform became operational at the lab in 2018. It’s the result of a three-way, drone-smiting partnership between Los Alamos, the FAA, and the National Nuclear Security Administration. They rolled out the system to swiftly deal with what the lab says is “the reasonable likelihood that an unmanned aircraft system or unmanned aircraft activity, if unabated, could inflict or otherwise cause physical harm to a person; inflict or otherwise cause damage to property or systems; interfere with the operational mission of a covered facility or asset; conduct unauthorized surveillance or reconnaissance; or result in unauthorized access to, or disclosure of, classified or otherwise lawfully protected information.”

The warning to drone pilots considering an outing in the area is therefore very clear, and not worth risking. Especially since – in addition its current anti-UAS capacities – history shows that the Los Alamos lab is capable of producing far more powerful boom-boom hurt to entities it deems hostile than a scrambled controller.

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