Drones represent one of the fastest growing commercial markets. They are being used in countless industries from science, research, and education to inspections, securities, entertainment, real estate, agriculture, logistics, and so much more. The majority of drone use in the United States proves that the technology is being used for good, particularly when used as emergency tools. For the last few years, DJI, the largest drone manufacturer in the world, has been updating its Drone Rescue Map. To date, an estimated 883 individuals from 509 incidents in 39 different countries have been rescued with the assistance of drone technology.
And while the drones for good movement is growing stronger every day, there are still those who exploit the advantages that drones provide. One of the biggest ways in which drones are being abused is to transport illegal substances and objects into prisons or across borders. Inexpensive off the shelf drones have become ideal couriers for drugs, alcohol, and weapons. If the drone is somehow intercepted, the perpetrator has already most likely recouped their investment. Unfortunately, there is little that law enforcement can do to counter such incidents.
When an enemy goes to use a drone against a military operation, there are successful counter UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) parameters in place. The US Armed Forces have spent millions on anti-drone technology. Stationary and portable systems for incapacitating and eliminating incoming enemy drones are equally important to our military’s defensive drone practices. Yet, domestic law enforcement agencies are not permitted to deploy such countermeasures. On April 25, 2022, the Biden administration announced plans to develop what they are calling the Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan.
A statement released by the White House reads, “Malicious actors have increasingly used UAS domestically to commit crimes, conduct illegal surveillance and industrial espionage, and thwart law enforcement efforts at the local, state and Federal level.” The administration wants to provide law enforcement agencies with the means to prevent and stop unauthorized use of drone technology over domestic land and sea. Currently, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) prohibits anyone from interfering with any aircraft while in flight. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) bans the use of radio jamming signals. These laws effectively protect anyone flying a drone.
The proposal from the Biden administration is seeking to make amendments to these rules that will allow law enforcement agencies to purchase and use anti-drone technology. This could include the use of rifle-like devices that shoot out drone capturing nets or emit signals that interrupt a drone’s radio transmission. The use of such tools will have to be approved by Congress as well as the FAA and FCC. The plan also outlines steps to train officers in safely using anti-drone technology and establish a database of drone offenders. The White House statement goes on to say, “the Administration is working to expand where we can protect against nefarious UAS activity, who is authorized to take action, and how it can be accomplished lawfully. The Plan seeks to achieve this legitimate expansion while safeguarding the airspace, communications spectrums, individual privacy, civil liberties and civil rights.” Just as regulations for how drones can be used are constantly needing to be adjusted, the rules prohibiting the use of drones also needs amendment. And for those who choose not to follow the rules, law enforcement needs tools to ensure the safety of everyone so that the drone industry can continue to prosper.