About that Drone Attack on the Pennsylvania Power Grid

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

The Drive: U.S. officials believe that a DJI Mavic 2, a small quadcopter-type drone, with a thick copper wire attached underneath it via nylon cords was likely at the center of an attempted attack on a power substation in Pennsylvania last year. An internal U.S. government report that was issued last month says that this is the first time such an incident has been officially assessed as a possible drone attack on energy infrastructure in the United States, but that this is likely to become more commonplace as time goes on. This is a reality The War Zone has sounded the alarm about in the past, including when we were first to report on a still unexplained series of drone flights near the Palo Verde nuclear powerplant in Arizona in 2019.

ABC News was first to report on the Joint Intelligence Bulletin (JIB) covering the incident in Pennsylvania last year, which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) published on Oct. 28, 2021. The document, which ABC obtained a copy of, but only released a small portion of, is marked unclassified, but parts also labeled Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) and For Official Use Only (FOUO). Other outlets have since obtained copies of this document, which reportedly says that this likely attack took place on July 16, 2020, but does not identify where the substation in question was located.

DHS via ABC News

RELATED READING: FBI Strategic Intelligence/Assessment on Domestic Terrorism

A portion of an annotated satellite image from a US Joint Intelligence Bulletin regarding a likely attempted drone attack on a power substation in Pennsylvania in 2020.

“This is the first known instance of a modified UAS [unmanned aerial system] likely being used in the United States to specifically target energy infrastructure,” the JIB states. “We assess that a UAS recovered near an electrical substation was likely intended to disrupt operations by creating a short circuit to cause damage to transformers or distribution lines, based on the design and recovery location.”

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