Measure will allow federal agencies to protect nation against rogue drone attacks
The House of Representatives passed the FAA Re-Authorization Act (H.R. 302) that contains Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s provision that provides federal agencies the authority to detect, track, alter control, and/or destroy UAVs that pose a reasonable threat to the safety and security of certain agency assets and operations. The measure passed the House 398-23.
“This legislation will provide our federal law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools to mitigate and prevent drone crimes from occurring,” said Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who earlier this year introduced H.R. 5366, the Safeguarding America’s Skies Act which was included in the FAA Re-Authorization bill. “Advances in drone technology have provided efficient and effective ways for industries across the board to conduct everyday tasks. However, drone technology is also being exploited to advance crime and threaten our national security. It is only a matter of time before similar acts are executed here at home to target U.S. citizens,” added Hartzler. She noted that drones serve as a mode of transportation for illegal drugs crossing the border as well as contraband into prisons. On the other side of the globe, militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have used weaponized consumer drones to target U.S. and coalition partners.
“The House took a critical step in protecting our homeland from the growing threat posed by drones,” said House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul. “Though drones are used by everyday Americans for a variety of purposes – from capturing wedding ceremonies to monitoring crop growth, to name a few – we have also seen drones used by criminals to smuggle drugs across our borders or surveil law enforcement and we’ve seen drones used overseas by terrorist groups, like ISIS, to carry out attacks. This legislation strikes the right balance by providing DHS and DOJ with specific, credible authorities to take down a threatening drone while also protecting a lawful drone user’s privacy by limiting the geographic area where data may be collected and the circumstances of data maintained. It is vital that our laws keep pace with the evolving tactics used by our enemies to attack our homeland and I applaud my colleagues for supporting this important national security legislation. I also want to extend a special thanks to Chairmen Chabot and Shuster for working with me closely on this needed legislation. I also want to thank Rep. Vicky Hartzler for her efforts to better secure America’s skies.”
Currently many federal agencies are prohibited from engaging with drones to prevent criminal or accidental incidents from happening. Under Title 18 of the United States Code, it is illegal to willfully damage or destroy an aircraft, and drones are considered “aircraft.” Title 18 also prevents federal agencies from using tailored jamming or protocol manipulation to interdict drones because it is considered intruding on a “protected computer.” The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018 provided the Department of Defense with relief from Title 18 restrictions in order to protect certain military installations and assets. Unfortunately, federal agencies like the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security continue to have their hands tied preventing them from interdicting a drone that poses a reasonable threat, such as those carrying drugs across the border.
“This measure is common sense legislation that provides Title 18 relief to allow these agencies to use counter drone technology to detect, monitor, and engage with unauthorized drones that pose a reasonable threat to the safety and security of certain facilities and assets, including those related to operations that counter terrorism, narcotics, and transnational criminal organizations,” said Hartzler. “With passage of H.R. 302, federal law enforcement authorities will now have one more tool to keep us safe.”
H.R. 302 also re-authorizes funding for the Federal Aviation Administration while providing modernization components to America’s airports and airline industries.