Proposal Seeks To Give Feds Authority To Down Any Drone Deemed Safety, Security Threat

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A White House proposal seeks to grant federal officials the power to monitor and destroy any unmanned aircraft system deemed a safety or security threat to government facilities and operations, according to a draft of the legislation.

Published May 23 by the New York Times, the document is making rounds in Congressional committees and could become part of the next National Defense Authorization Act currently in the works.

If signed into law in its current form, the proposal would allow federal department and agency heads to authorize any member of the Armed Forces; federal officers, employees, agents, or contractors; or any other designated individual to track and eliminate threatening UAS, also called drones, and their payloads by use of force.

Drone operators could find themselves in hot water and out an aircraft for flying near some government buildings and property or interfering with government operations such as search and rescues, firefighting, medical evacuations, fugitive apprehensions, emergency response and military training and testing.

The proposal comes as security concerns about drones grow in tandem with the technology’s expanding presence and accessibility.

The document notes that drones are “commercially available, challenging to detect and mitigate, and capable of carrying harmful payloads and performing surveillance while evading traditional ground security measures.”

If a drone is determined to be a safety or security threat, the proposal would give federal officials the ability to:

  1. “Detect, identify, monitor or track, without prior consent, an unmanned aircraft system, unmanned aircraft, or unmanned aircraft’s attached system, payload, or cargo, to evaluate whether it poses a threat to the safety or security.
  2. “Redirect, disable, disrupt control of, exercise control of, seize, or confiscate, without prior consent, an unmanned aircraft system, unmanned aircraft, or unmanned aircraft’s attached system, payload, or cargo that poses a threat to the safety or security.
  3. “Use reasonable force to disable, disrupt, damage, or destroy an unmanned aircraft system, unmanned aircraft, or unmanned aircraft’s attached system, payload or cargo that poses a threat to the safety or security.
  4. “Conduct research, testing, training on, and evaluation of any equipment, including any electronic equipment, to determine its capability and utility to enable any of the actions described in paragraphs (1) through (3).”

Examples of departments that could exercise their authority included in the document are the U.S Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

If an aircraft, payload or system is destroyed or seized in such circumstances, it would be forfeited to the federal government, according to the document. Court cases seeking damages also could not be filed against federal officials taking action to eliminate threatening drones under the proposal.