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Consumer drone technology has taken off in recent years and sometimes literally.
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Challenging conventional rules governing flight, there are numerous incidents reported in the press almost regularly about one drone pilot or another pushing some jurisdiction’s legal boundaries.
And for their part no one can say that the drone companies haven’t helped move the process of reining this in along, partnering with governments on multiple levels concerning everything from opening drone registries to pilot education and licensing. There are also companies out there developing tech that allows people to disable drones at a distance and they might be thrilled by the latest moves in the US Congress.
A bill granting local authorities the ability to shoot down drones that they deem a threat passed the US Senate but not without controversy. Civil rights groups are decrying the legislation as overreach and as being too vague as to what authorities would have to do to classify something as a threat.
Part of an effort to modernize the country’s civil aviation laws in the era of the drone, the unoffensively named FAA Reauthorization Act is just part of a multiple-front approach to the issue.
Other permissions granted in the legislation include the ability to take control of or otherwise disable a drone that is deemed a threat by local authorities. This will be applied to not only sensitive airspace near airports and the like but also other locations like government builds or public venues.
The American Civil Liberties Union told US publication TechCrunch that, “These provisions give the government virtually carte blanche to surveil, seize, or even shoot a drone out of the sky — whether owned by journalists or commercial entities — with no oversight or due process…They grant new powers to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to spy on Americans without a warrant,” and they “undermine the use of drones by journalists, which have enabled reporting on critical issues like hurricane damage and protests at Standing Rock.”