Dec 20, 2018

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Situational awareness: Get ready for a partial government shutdown. President Trump says he won't sign a funding bill that doesn't have money for a wall.

  • House Republicans introduced a funding bill today that includes $5.7 billion for the border wall, but it's unclear if they can pass it — let alone get it through the Senate.
1 big thing: The drone nightmare is here

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We still know very little about the drones that have shut down Gatwick, the U.K.'s second busiest airport, but their example is a painful reminder of our transportation system's vulnerabilities.

  • A pair of drones have been spotted flying over the runway, grounding flights as police furiously search for the perpetrator(s), BBC reports.
  • That's left thousands stranded, hundreds of flights canceled and even the military being brought in to try to help, with no end in sight.
  • "[T]he drone intrusion that shut the airport was 'highly targeted' and designed to cause 'maximum disruption' just before Christmas," AP reports.

The big picture: This is why drone manufacturers want rules to prevent incidents like this that significantly damage trust in the nascent industry, Axios managing editor Kim Hart notes.

  • In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration was expected to craft regulations this year. That didn’t happen, and drone companies aren’t happy.
  • Meanwhile, events like today give public safety and law enforcement agencies ammunition to say, “This is why drones are a safety and national security threat.”

Between the lines: Those agencies have a point.

  • Law enforcement will struggle with handling stray drones. (U.K. police feared shooting the Gatwick ones because of concerns about stray bullets.)
  • In the U.S., "lawmakers have given law enforcement new powers to hack or even shoot down drones that may pose security threats. Advances in drone technology, however, make it more difficult for law enforcement to identify communication signals between drones and ground operators," WSJ reports.
  • Drones can be innocuous. They could also be outfitted with bombs.
  • Elon Musk, in an "Axios on HBO" interview, warned of "assassin drones" that would use facial recognition to track and kill targets.

In addition to increased interest in recreational drones, tech companies like Google, Amazon and Intel have invested in developing the technologies for their own business purposes, such as package delivery.

  • Commercial drones can fly under specific height limits, but not over people. The FAA can grant a waiver for other commercial uses — such as during sporting events.

What to watch: To help appease security concerns, drone makers support remote identification standards so officials can spot drones operated by potential hostile actors.

  • But there’s some disagreement on how to do that technologically. The drone industry most wants the FAA to establish rules that allow operators to fly drones beyond their line of sight and over people.
  • Without standards around those activities, the industry is stuck in a holding pattern. 

Be smart, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: Gatwick is uniquely susceptible since it's a small, single-runway airport (not small in impact but in area).

  • Doing this at Atlanta or Denver or Chicago would be really hard, more like half an airport shutdown, as the drone operators would have to cover a massive distance.
  • The flip side: If they can't defend a single runway airport from this, what can they defend from a drone attack?
Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
2. What you missed
  1. Mexico will allow migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to remain on its soil while their applications are processed. Go deeper.
  2. Democrats will host at least 12 primary debate nights for candidates leading up to the 2020 election. Go deeper.
  3. The Department of Justice unsealed indictments against 2 Chinese hackers affiliated with the Ministry of State Security. Go deeper.
  4. Scientists hunting for the animal sources for deadly hemorrhagic fevers, such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, have made the first discovery of a Marburg reservoir in West Africa. Go deeper.
  5. Scoop: Three months before Trump’s surprise Syria announcement, Russia went to Israel with a plan: Tie U.S. withdrawal from Syria to an Iranian pullout, hold off on new Iran sanctions and start a wider U.S.-Russia dialogue. Netanyahu rejected it. Go deeper.
3. 1 telemarketer thing

"Just as technology has made it easier for telemarketers and scammers to make calls, so has it given everyone else resources and ideas to fight back," WSJ reports.

  • “'My goal is to fight fire with fire,' said Steven Murray, who runs a jewelry and gadget repair shop in Goldsboro, N.C."
  • "He uses an app called RoboKiller ... which costs $3.99 a month, forwards suspect calls to an 'answer bot' that serves up a recording. The recordings are designed to seem like live people, with pauses between statements to allow the caller time to talk."
  • "Told by one phone scammer that he was being pursued by the Internal Revenue Service for back taxes, [Bryan] May asked if he could use gift cards from Target and Walmart to settle up. His caller agreed and asked Mr. May to read out the serial numbers."
  • "When the caller said the numbers were invalid, Mr. May ... offered more make-believe numbers, stretching the conversation to more than 15 minutes, until the caller lost patience."

Ring, ring, ring.

Mike Allen