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March 9, 2018

Lawmakers discussing proposal that would allow cops to take over drones

by John_A

Should law enforcement have the authority to disable a drone that’s breaking the law or posing a security threat? That’s the question Washington is considering with potential legislation, Bloomberg reports.

The proposal is not yet complete, but Michael Kratsios, a U.S. technology officer inside the Trump administration, said that a proposal is currently in progress. The bill is focused on security as drone technology continues to progress. The proposal would address civilian drones. Another official, who chose to remain unnamed, says that several groups are working on the legislation, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

While few details are available until the discussion creates an actual bill, the legislation would likely address laws already on the books. Laws that prohibit wiretapping, for example, prevent law enforcement from using existing technology such as signal jammers to take over a drone’s controls or land the UAV. Another possibility is allowing those same groups to use drone monitoring programs. The discussion is said to include both law enforcement agencies and security companies.

The discussion isn’t the first to look into safety and security as the drone market expands — Bloomberg says a similar proposal was suggested last year but nothing came of the plan. Since then, a helicopter reportedly had to make a crash landing after veering to avoid a drone and hitting a tree. The FAA confirmed the accident but did not confirm if a drone was involved in the incident earlier this year.

The FAA is also working on drone safety legislation, including a proposal that would require consumer drones to broadcast their positions, allowing law enforcement to track drones.

Currently, drone owners are required to register their UAV with the FAA, while stricter guidelines for commercial flights require testing and certification. Existing drone laws also create no-fly zones, including airports.

The bill is one of several suggestions presented as drone use continues to grow. Drone giant DJI itself has proposed an “invisible” license plate system that allows law enforcement to access the drone’s information. Because the program uses numbers rather than names, the idea would offer some privacy in keeping that data away from average citizens. The number would be transmitted using radio controls that are already built into most drones.

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