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MQ-9 Reaper Drone, Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Well, here’s a scary one.

The nerds at the University of Texas at Austin have successfully used a $1,000 GPS “spoofing” device to take over a flying, pilotless U.S. drone with an unencrypted GPS system.

See Fox News video here, and video from the researchers here.

Don’t forget, Iran has already claimed to have hijacked a U.S. spy drone by “spoofing” its GPS system.

According to a recent article from Examiner.com, the researchers’ $1,000 gizmo uses an even stronger signal than the one broadcast by satellites in outer space — tricking the drone into believing that it’s somewhere other than where it actually is.

Whoops!

After scoring an invite from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the researchers (led by a professor Todd Humphreys) showed reps from DHS and the FAA gathered at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico just how the “spoof” hijacking technology worked.

What with U.S. plans to deploy a large number of unmanned drones over the skies of the U.S., according to this piece in the The Washington Times, the revelation of this new technology is a little, um … disconcerting?

If you REALLY want to scare the tar out of yourself, check out some of the quotes from the Fox News piece:

“Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” the lead researcher, Todd Humphreys, told the network.

The Fox story also said that DHS officials are trying to control GPS interference with its “Patriot Watch” and “Patriot Shield” efforts — but the programs are poorly funded, in the early stages and targeted in the wrong places.

Weeeeell … that’s great.