KEY POINTS

  • Reports say an apparent attack targeted a power grid in Pennsylvania in July 2020
  • The intel report believes a DJI Mavic 2 was used to execute the said attack
  • Authorities have not yet identified the operators of the drone

A new warning has been released following the discovery of an intelligence bulletin, which reveals a plot involving the use of a drone to attack an electrical grid in Pennsylvania on July 16, 2020.

U.S. officials believe a DJI Mavic 2 equipped with thick copper wire was used to launch an attempted attack on a Pennsylvania substation last year. Released in the late part of October, the Joint Intelligence Bulletin (JIB) obtained by ABC News claims this is the first time that such an incident has been identified as a possible drone attack in one of the energy infrastructures in the country.

The drone was found on top of a building adjacent to a Pennsylvania power substation in 2020. The National Counterterrorism Center, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI believed the drone was aimed to disrupt operations by damaging transformers via a short circuit. 

A Mavic Pro 2 drone made by the Chinese company DJI A Mavic Pro 2 drone made by the Chinese company DJI Photo: AFP / Hector RETAMAL

The person or group responsible craftily removed the device's memory card, camera and all markings to hide its identity. In a report from CNN, federal officials said they are distributing the intelligence bulletin now to "raise awareness about the incident and the general threat of drones to critical infrastructure." 

There is a growing concern in the country these days on the illicit use of drones over energy infrastructure and other possible targets. It may be recalled that the U.S. military used Tomahawk cruise missiles with spools of carbon fiber wire on a power infrastructure to create blackouts in Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. 

The F-117 Nighthawk stealth combat jets also dropped cluster bombs with BLU-114/B submunitions packed with graphite filament over Serbia to achieve the same result in 1999. Unlike other arsenal, drones are tough to detect and even tougher to defend against. 

"To date, no operator has been identified and we are producing this assessment now to expand awareness of this event to federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement and security partners who may encounter similarly modified UAS," the intelligence bulletin revealed.

It was not revealed how much of a threat this particular drone posed in its modified form. The supposed intended method of attack seems to be based on actual science to a certain degree.