Federal government may soon be authorized to shoot down private drones

The federal government soon could be announcing legislation that would give federal agencies the authority to shoot down private commercial drones. With more than 1 million private drones circulating within US borders, the government appears concerned about the possible risks that it may entail.

The bill is a 1,225-page Federal Aviation Authority bill includes a section titled “Preventing Emergency Threats”. Under Division H of this section, it is stated that law enforcement “with assigned duties that include the security or protection of people, facilities or assets” can disrupt, disable, intercept or even seize control of the drone. In addition, they would be able to have the authorization to “damage, or destroy the unmanned aircraft system or unmanned aircraft” if necessary.

The bill has been in motion since August due to issues revolving around national security. At the time, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had written a latter to Texas Representative Michael McCaul, requesting authorization to shoot down thrones. She expressed concern about the role private drones could play in terrorist or criminal activity.

“Commercially available drones can be employed by terrorists and criminals to drop explosive payloads, deliver harmful substances, disrupt communications, and conduct illicit surveillance.”

By the terms of the bill, both Nielson and Attorney General Jess Sessions would decide the grounds by which a ‘credible threat’ would be defined. Many critics of the bill are worried about the vague definition of credible threats as well as limited logistics as to where the drones would be shot down. In addition, many worries that the bill might give the federal government the authority to overrule legislation on limited surveillance.

Under current Title 18 Wiretap laws, federal law enforcement is not authorized to intercept private communications unless that have a permit or its an emergency case, and regardless are required to request judicial approval.

However, if this legislation is passed, the government would be able to circumvent these current restrictions, giving them express permission to monitor unmanned aircrafts and intercept their communication without expressed consent.

However, the House of Homeland security is keen to discourage any fears over surveillance. They claim the current technology is only sensitive to specific drones and will not be used to intercept all electronic communications.

The FAA themselves have offered no comment at this time.