MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It was the highlight of the summer sports scene as baseball’s greatest played on Target Field.
But overhead, radio-controlled drones buzzed the All Star crowd as part of a government test to see if they’re detectable by covert radar.
“Current radar systems can actually detect these, it just depends on their proximity and size,” drone expert Charles Eide said.
Aside from his part in the national debate over proposed drone regulation, Eide started “Flysafe,” an educational training program for drone operators.
“If you’re going to be flying you need to fly responsibly,” he said.
Because of the potential threats posed by unregulated drones, the government is in the process of developing operating protocols. The rules would govern where they can be flown, safe operating distances and for what purposes.
On Monday, a small drone crashed on the White House lawn at 3 a.m. and was quickly recovered by Secret Service staff.
But it raises alarms if it could go undetected by radar systems watching over the White House and other critical federal buildings.
Still, some are suspicious that the incident may not have been purely an accident.
Eide said a panel of drone experts wonder if it was part of a broader test, similar to the Homeland Security maneuvers over the All Star game at Target Field.
“There’re a lot of training programs,” drone dealer Tanner Becken said.
Becken sells a lot of them at Richfield’s Hobby Warehouse, where he says they’ve been catching on in popularity over the past three years.
He was also made aware of the All Star game tests last summer, but he believes the potential threat posed by drones is extremely small.
Becken explained that’s because they have a tiny payload capacity.
“They can’t lift that much weight, they can’t fly that long, and I don’t think they’re that much of a threat,” he said.
Test or no test, Homeland Security wants to assure that drones are only used in commerce and recreation, not as a tool of terrorists.
Broader rules covering their operations and safety are expected to be released in the summer.