The Night A Mysterious Drone Swarm Descended On Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant

Winston

Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Joined
Jan 31, 2009
Messages
9,542
Reaction score
1,694
The Night A Mysterious Drone Swarm Descended On Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant
The mysterious case of mass drone incursions over America's most powerful nuclear power plant that only resulted in more questions and no changes.
JULY 29, 2020


While the news has been filled with claims that strange unidentified craft with unexplainable capabilities are appearing over highly sensitive U.S. installations and assets as of late, a much less glamorous, more numerous, and arguably far more pressing threat has continued to metastasize in alarming ways—that posed by lower-end and even off-the-shelf drones. Less than a year ago and just days after the stunning drone attacks on Saudi Arabia's most critical energy production infrastructure deep in the heart of that highly defended country, a bizarre and largely undisclosed incident involving a swarm of drones occurred on successive September evenings in 2019. The location? America's most powerful nuclear plant, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station situated roughly two dozen miles west to Phoenix, near Tonopah, Arizona.

In a trove of documents and internal correspondences related to the event, officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) described the incident as a "drone-a-palooza" and said that it highlighted concerns about the potential for a future "adversarial attack" involving small unmanned aircraft and the need for defenses against them. Even so, the helplessness and even cavalier attitude toward the drone incident as it was unfolding by those that are tasked with securing one of America's largest and most sensitive nuclear facilities serves as an alarming and glaring example of how neglected and misunderstood this issue is.

What you are about to read is an unprecedented look inside a type of event that is less isolated in nature than many would care to believe.

This particular story starts on Sept. 29, 2019. Shortly before 11:00 PM local time at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, Daphne Rodriguez, an Acting Security Section Chief at the plant, called the duty officer at NRC's Headquarters Operations Center (HOC). Rodriguez reported that a number of drones were flying over and around a restricted area near the nuclear power plant's Unit 3, which houses one of its three pressurized water reactors:

"Officer noticed several drones (5 or 6) flying over the site. The drones are circling the 3 unit site inside and outside the Protected Area. The drones have flashing red and white rights and are estimated to be 200 to 300 hundred feet above the site. It was reported the drones had spotlights on while approaching the site that they turned off when they entered the Security Owner Controlled Area. Drones were first noticed at 2050 MST and are still over the site as of 2147 MST. Security Posture was normal, which was changed to elevated when the drones were noticed. The Licensee notified one of the NRC resident inspectors.

As of 0237 EST, no drones have been observed at the site since 2230 MST. Officers believe drones were over 2 feet in diameter.

That wasn't the end of it, though, for Palo Verde. The very next night, Ismael Garcia, a Security Supervisor at the plant called ILTAB to report another drone incursion over sensitive areas.

This new information was originally added as an update to the previous incident, but the HERO on duty, Donald Norwood, eventually set up a new, separate SID entry, which again received additional updates as the situation progressed, with the key details being as follows:

Four (4) drones were observed flying beginning at 2051 MST [on Sept. 30, 2019] and continuing through the time of this report (2113 MST). As occurred last night, the drones are flying in, through, and around the owner controlled area, the security owner controlled area, and the protected area. Also, as last night, the drones are described as large with red and white flashing lights. Spotlights have not been noted tonight.

The licensee has not changed their security posture. The licensee continues to monitor the drones.

As of 0355 EDT, no drones have been observed at the site since before 0020 MST. LLEA [local law enforcement agency] surveyed the area and were unable to locate drones on the ground or anyone controlling the drones.

The licensee notified FAA (both Phoenix and Albuquerque), FBI, DHS, and the Maricopa [County, Arizona] Sheriff's Office. The licensee notified the NRC Resident lnspector.

Palo Verde security officials had filed their own report on this second incident, which eventually made its way to NRC. It included the following narrative:

"On 9/30/19 at approximately 2051 hours, it was reported by a Security Team Leader that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) were approaching the plant from the east (true east). The hours of darkness made it difficult to estimate the altitude at which the UAVs were flying. Two Security Team Leaders [redacted]. The UAVs appeared to have been launching from behind the mountain range at the intersection of Southern Ave and 361 Ave just east of the plant. Four UAVs were confirmed to have been spotted at one time flying northwest over Unit 1 and returning northeast over Unit 3. LLEA (MCSO) [Maricopa County Sheriff's Office] deputies were dispatched to the area of the mountain range with a Security Unit Team Leader in an attempt to determine the location of the UAV operators, but were unsuccessful. No other UAVs were observed after approximately 2300 hours."

"These UAVs are believed to have been the same UAVs that flew over the plant the night before on 9/29/19 at approximately 2020 hours (refer to CR# 14095 for details)."

"All required notifications were made IAW [in accordance with] 20DP-0SK49 Security Integrated Response Plan and additional Security contingency measure [sic] were implemented IAW 21SP-0SK11 Security Contingencies. No additional compensatory measures are required IAW 20SP-0SK08 Compensatory Measures for Loss of Security Equipment/Effectiveness."


These Marines Just Published a How-To Guide on Hiding from Enemy Drones
29 Jul 2020


You're a Marine operating with your squad at a forward location with little cover. A lookout spots a small, lightweight drone -- not a friendly -- flying far overhead. What do you do?

A new manual independently compiled by 11 seasoned Marines and veterans aims to answer that question and provide much more guidance to ground troops seeking to avoid detection against a growing enemy threat. Published at the end of June, the 96-page guide proposes a standard operating procedure, or SOP, for Marines training for and operating in an environment where enemy drones, more formally known as unmanned aerial systems, are part of the terrain.
 

Winston

Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Joined
Jan 31, 2009
Messages
9,542
Reaction score
1,694
Border Patrol Helicopter Had Bizarre Encounter With Mysterious "Highly Modified" Drone (Updated)
The mystery drone flew up to 14,000 feet and was tracked for over an hour. Now the FBI is investigating.
MAY 21, 2021


New Details Emerge On The "Highly Modified Drone" That Outran Police Helicopters Over Tucson
The drone was first detected near an energy [fuel] storage facility across from Davis-Monthan AFB before evading two pursuing law enforcement helicopters.
JUNE 1, 2021


Excerpt:

In the days since we first reported on the Tucson drone encounter, individuals have reached out with new information that adds further context to this still-developing story. A source with direct knowledge of the incident's details told The War Zone they believed the drone was highly unlikely to be battery-powered based on the altitude, distance, and speed at which it flew. The source also stated it seems as though the drone was equipped with an infrared camera based how it was able to dynamically maneuver, including in relation to the helicopters chasing it, despite the low level of ambient light at the time of the incident. They also added that it is "only logical that it was looking towards DM’s [Davis Monthan AFB] flight line" based on its location.

The same source also tells us that the unusual drone was first spotted near a complex of fuel tanks just west of Runway 12 at the U.S. Air Force's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. This is well within the Class C airspace that surrounds Davis-Monthan, as well as the Tucson International Airport, and is very close to the fence line surrounding the base.

The drone's initial observed location was also largely confirmed by a post from another individual on JetCareers.com, which describes itself as “an online community of airline, corporate and professional pilots including air traffic controllers, dispatchers and mechanics.” In a forum post dated February 10, 2021, a moderator of that forum with the username MikeD wrote the following account of the incident:

Last night, there was one just east of KTUS at about 1200’ AGL cruising eastbound. It passed about 30’ away co-altitude with a police helicopter flying the opposite direction. Helo made a 180 turn to give chase. The quad copter was described as approximately 5 feet long by about 3 feet wide, with a single green flashing LED light. It continued east into KDMAs airspace and began orbiting the base over the parallel taxiway near the fighter jet ramp. TUS and DMA towers were unaware of it, as was U90 [an FAA approach tower] controllers. The operator apparently realized by this time that the drone was being followed, because it then proceeded northwest at high speed and climbing, with the helo and another LE helo in trail. The copter began to climb and flew out of the TUS area about 50 miles to the northwest of town into the middle of nowhere desert out by the mine west of KAVQ. It was last seen climbing through 14,000’ and into the undercast, where it disappeared. The helos remained in VMC [Visual Meteorological Conditions] obviously, and one hung around for about an hour, to see if it would reappear descending, or if there was any vehicles driving through the middle of nowhere as either the operator or someone to potentially recover it. Neither appeared. U90 informed their FAA chain of command about it, but that’s as far as I’ve heard so far.

Interesting in both the range and the altitude, both control-wise in terms of line of sight, as well as battery life as it comes to the endurance of the thing. The concerns with it being around air traffic and a near mid-air, as well as it being over an Air Force base with security sensitive aircraft, are all all concerning. Definitely not something commercial off-the-shelf that one would buy at the local store.
 
Top