The battle between government bureaucracy and the largely unregulated consumer drone industry is heating up in the United States as the government there wants the right to not only seize your drone for suspicious activity but also destroy it if they deem it necessary. That means no warnings, no need to contact the owner, just get the drone out of the sky.
Suspicious being a fairly broad term, and a subjective measure at that, drone pilots understandably want a bit of clarity regarding what exactly the government means.
Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security is asking the United States Congress to pass a law that gives the department the ability to observe, seize, or destroy any drone in the airspace of the United States if that drone is deemed suspicious or a threat.
Called the “Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018,” the Department of Homeland Security basically wants to expand existing powers it has relating to other aircraft. Department of Homeland Security Deputy General Counsel Hayley Chang called the prevention of attacks and curbing the threats to security posed by drones remains one of the top priorities at the department.
Gizmodo reported that the number of “suspicious” drone flights shot up from 8 in 2013 to 1,752 in 2016. Further, Deputy General Counsel Chang outlined the various methods terrorists are using to integrate drone aircraft into their attacks and strategies.
The bill is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union which stated in a letter to the US Congress: “While the potential security threat posed by drones is real and the need to protect certain facilities is legitimate, strong checks and balances to protect property, privacy, and First Amendment rights are vital…S.2836 lacks such measures. The bill amounts to an enormous unchecked grant of authority to the government to forcefully remove drones from the sky in nebulous security circumstances. S. 2836 would empower the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to intercept, surveil, destroy, or seize drones in a wide array of circumstances – including in cases they are operated by a non-malicious actor like a hobbyist, commercial entity, or journalist.”
It will be interesting to see where this decision lands…