The White House has proposed new rules prompting Congress to authorize law enforcement to track and shoot down drones if necessary.
The Trump administration wants government agencies to be able to track unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) and, if they deem appropriate, to shoot down the threatening drone. Police would have a green light to intercept the wireless signals reaching the drone and if they consider it a threat, they would be able to disable, redirect, confiscate, or simply destroy the drone.
Green Light To Track, Hack, And Destroy Drones
"The Trump administration is asking Congress to give the federal government sweeping powers to track, hack and destroy any type of drone over domestic soil with a new exception to laws governing surveillance, computer privacy and aircraft protection," the New York Times reports, revealing the summary and draft of legislation it obtained.
As drones have risen in popularity, the number of personal drones has also increased and various concerns surfaced regarding safety, privacy, and security. Frequent concerns included the potential for people to carry bombs or smuggle drugs and small weapons into secure areas.
Under the proposed rules, law enforcement officers would still have to respect privacy and civil rights, but would have far more leeway for handling what they perceive to be a threatening drone.
Trump Administration Calls For Changes In Legislation
The legislation would make an exception not only in Federal Aviation Administration aircraft regulations, but also in U.S. laws regarding hacking and surveillance. As the law currently stands, intercepting the wireless signals to UASs could be on par with accessing a protected PC or wiretapping, while disabling it could well be aircraft sabotage. The legislation would change this so that government agencies can disable drones without the operation raising any legal red flags. Such operations would be beyond the courts' jurisdiction.
The draft of the legislation highlights that the rules currently in place are from a time when drones were not an issue as they weren't even anticipated. The new rules would adapt to current times and supersede the old legislation.
The Problem With Drones
The Trump administration further points out that drones are commercially available to virtually anyone who can afford them and they can pose serious threats. Not only could drones carry illegal or harmful loads, but they could also engage in surveillance without setting off any regular ground security measures.
Since the current laws, dating from before the drones existed, would deem illegal what law enforcement would have to do to detect and disable drones, a change in legislation is paramount, the proposed legislation indicates.
The draft legislation further claims that the changes would increase public safety and help fight terrorism, allowing law enforcement to counter drones carrying dangerous payloads or drones that interfere with rescue operations, police investigations, or other such operations.
The White House and Congress will reportedly ponder on this legislation draft, but nothing is public just yet. The White House wants to pass the draft as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the NYT further reveals.
The Problem With This Proposal
At the same time, however, such changes in legislation could also have negative effects. For one, it would allow law enforcement to disable drones with no legal authorization and no court to answer to. Police could also block drone recording, which has proven to be a valuable resource for journalists.