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Mysterious, middle-of-the-night drone flights by the U.S. Secret Service during the next several weeks over parts of Washington — usually off-limits as a strict no-fly zone — are part of secret government testing intended to find ways to interfere with rogue drones or knock them out of the sky, The Associated Press has learned. A U.S. official briefed on the plans said the Secret Service was testing drones for law enforcement or protection efforts and to look for ways, such as signal jamming, to thwart threats from civilian drones. The drones were being flown between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to publicly discuss the plans. The Secret Service has said details were classified. Some consumer-level drones, which commonly carry video cameras, are powerful enough to carry small amounts of explosives or a grenade. The challenge for the Secret Service is quickly detecting a rogue drone flying near the White House or the president's location, then within moments either hacking it to seize control over its flight or jamming its signal to send it off course or make it crash. The Secret Service has said only that it will openly test drones over Washington, but it declined to provide details.

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--- The Associated Press