Congress Passes Bill to Allow U.S. Authorities to Shoot Down Private Drones

Congress Passes Bill to Allow U.S. Authorities to Shoot Down Private Drones

Critics are unhappy with a new bill that has just been passed, allowing authorities to shoot down private drones. It allows the government to destroy any drone that is considered a “credible threat,” and many believe the move is “dangerous” and “doesn’t include enough safeguards.”

It was on Wednesday that the Senate passed the FAA Reauthorization Act. It had previously been approved by the House of Representatives in April. The FAA have now been granted funding until 2023, with the general agenda of the bill being to modernize aviation laws in the country.

Civil rights groups are speaking up against the ruling, with the ACLU telling TechCrunch:

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.

And they’re not wrong; authorities would not be required to first obtain a warrant before firing at a drone, which opens the floodgates for Homeland Security and the Justice Department to destroy drones with questionable reasoning.

The EFF claim bringing the bill into effect endangers the First and Fourth Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the protection from warrantless device seizures, respectively. The bill will now be sent to the president and is due to be brought into law.

Lead image credit: Taneli Lahtinen on Unsplash.

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22 Comments

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

Target practice is on

Opens the floodgates? Do you really think government officials are pushing against those "gates" to shoot drones out of the sky? Maybe you should switch to decaf.

Kirk Darling's picture

It doesn't require a warrant for police to shoot a reckless driver or for the Air Force to shoot down a reckless private plane.

If the presumption that the need to "shoot down" a drone occurs while the drone is doing something illegal or dangerous in flight, how does anyone figure police can get a warrant in time?

joseph cole's picture

i would hope they mean capture shots fired randomly in the air seems like a bad idea. a projectile shot in the air...ever heard of gravity its gotta land somewhere and in a highly populated area would just elevate the potential for someone getting hurt...not to mention the drone falling out of the sky. idiots....

Kirk Darling's picture

The operative word is "threat." Police shoot at criminals at street level when they deem the threat makes it necessary, despite the possibility of errant rounds striking bystanders.

joseph cole's picture

True one year in my township police shot at an assailant and bullets went through an apartment wall shot and killed an elderly woman

Michael Jin's picture

There are methods of disabling or destroying drones that don't involve projectiles.

joseph cole's picture

I've seen nets in test exercises but they have a maximum distance

Michael Jin's picture

I was thinking more along the lines of frequency jammers and high powered lasers. Then again, the latter would probably be more of a military thing.

There are electronic devices which jam signals.

Makes sense. It is so easy to mount a firearm or explosive charge to a drone and use it for attacking a location.

Harlan Bowling's picture

Not sure if "Congrass" typo in the title is intentional, but it fits, so I vote leave it. :)

Simon Patterson's picture

I can't believe I had to scroll down the comments before I saw someone mention that elephant in the room!

David Pavlich's picture

If a drone is flown into protected air space without permission, it's no different than a guy in his Cessna Skyhawk flying into protected/restricted air space. The pilot will get a call from ATC and if the response isn't the correct response, the pilot will at least find the authorities waiting on the ramp when he lands or worst, an F16 flying in formation with about 1500 rounds of 20mm canon shells in that Vulcan canon at the ready.

The best thing a drone operator can do is avoid protected/controlled airspace. Common sense.

I can see it would be relatively easy to down a manned aircraft with air to air or ground based artillery, but I would imagine that hitting a drone in mid-air is a very different ball game, from my own experience something like a Mavic Pro is really hard to spot anywhere beyond 200-300 feet away, unless it is hovering it would be almost hopeless to use a scope, if shot at high altitude the drone falling to the ground could also be a potential hazard, all of this seems rather unlikely to happen frequently...

David Pavlich's picture

I'd say you're correct that it won't be a something we'll see on the news everyday. Still, knowing human nature, there's always someone willing to test the system. In that case, not only should the drone be eliminated, the pilot should be put in jail for a couple of years.

As for a weapon to use against a drone, a really, really long barreled, full choke 10 gauge magnum might work. :-)

Ryan Davis's picture

Train eagles to do it.

I agree that there should be parameters that more clearly define when a drone could be shot down, if for no other reason than to educate people so they're able to avoid getting their drones shot down.

That being said, "They grant new powers to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to spy on Americans without a warrant"

What? How does the right to shoot down a private drone grant the government increased authority to spy on people?

Or is this a game of "one of these things is not like the other"?

greg thomason's picture

No problem with this at all. There are restricted/classified areas in which a drone could be considered a threat, such as military bases. Airspace over police operations is sometimes controlled. With manned aircraft this is done through FAA/towers, but there is no way to contact all drone pilots. To require a warrant as is mentioned in the article is ridiculous as that would require a written affidavit delivered to a judge. This takes hours at best, and the government already is allowed to take certain steps to provide public safety, such as pursuing a dangerous felon into a building. The greater public safety outweighs the drone pilot in this case. Should a news agency be operating the drone, they can notify the acting agency. The police still will be required to justify discharging weapons, as they are now. I suspect if any drones are shot down it will be with less than lethal munitions such as shotgun bean bag rounds, annuls there are incredible exigent circumstances.

Leigh Miller's picture

I've got no problem with this....the idiots have ruined this hobby/commercial opportunity with their "rules/common sense doesn't apply to me mentality"

John Dawson's picture

Who or what is "congrass"?

Kirk Darling's picture

The law doesn't say that authorities must use firearms to bring down drones. The law does not say "shoot them down." The provides agencies wide enough authority to destroy a drone (by whatever means is effective) without breaking the law if and when it becomes a threat to public safety or security.