Assessing the Risk to Soft Targets from Malicious Drones
In Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, Brenton Tarrant attacked two mosques using multiple shotguns and rifles, killing 51 and wounding 40. The attack was far from the first on a soft target – targets where lots of people congregate, often with limited to no security measures. However, what made this attack unusual was the use of a drone. Specifically, Tarrant used a drone to conduct reconnaissance on the Masjid an-Nur mosque prior to the attack.
The Christchurch shooting is emblematic of the growing threat that drones pose to soft targets. Terrorists can use drones for planning and reconnaissance, to collect and distribute propaganda after an attack, or even as weapons in and of themselves. A major challenge that law enforcement and homeland security officials face is that not all soft targets are created equal. Government agencies tasked with protecting soft targets need to carefully parse the risk across threat, vulnerability, and consequence. That careful assessment should…