Trump Administration Wants to Track and Destroy Suspect Drones

Proposed new rules would give government agencies wide latitude to redirect, disable, confiscate or destroy unmanned aerial vehicles if deemed to pose a threat.

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is seeking congressional approval to give the federal government sweeping powers to monitor any unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying over the United States and destroy it if deemed a threat, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

The proposal would give government agencies wide latitude to intercept wireless signals going to a suspect drone, and then decide whether to redirect, disable, confiscate or destroy it. The proposal is outlined in a 10-page draft and summary of legislation that was said to be circulated among multiple congressional committees on Tuesday, according to The Times.

The draft legislation would create an exception for drones in U.S. hacking and surveillance laws, as well as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aircraft regulations. Currently, intercepting UAV signals could be considered wiretapping or accessing a “protected computer.” Destroying or disabling a drone, meanwhile, could be considered aircraft sabotage under FAA rules. The draft states that these rules were created when drones were “unforeseen,” and if passed, the law would supersede them.

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The Times reports the government has expressed growing concern about the proliferation of small drones, such as those that have flown over sporting events and one that crash-landed over the White House fence in 2015. Most disquieting is the specter of a terrorist arming a drone with bombs or other weapons and delivering the devices into secure areas.

The legislative summary states the draft bill is part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which is being written by the armed services committees but has not yet been publicly disclosed. The summary also explained the government’s argument for making the change, according to The Times.

It warned that drones were “commercially available, challenging to detect and mitigate, and capable of carrying harmful payloads and performing surveillance while evading traditional ground security measures,” but promising techniques for detecting them and mitigating those risks “may be construed to be illegal under certain laws” passed before drone technology existed.

The administration scheduled a classified briefing to be held Wednesday (5/24) for congressional staff deliberation, according to The Times.

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