Seek and destroy: Proposed rules allow government to track and take down rogue drones

In a government document, the Trump administration asked for authority to track, seize, and destroy any drones that may be a security risk.

Image: Joshua Goldman/CNET

In an effort to better control the perceived risks of small drones, the Trump administration is asking Congress to grant it the ability to track, seize, disrupt, and destroy any drone that it perceives to be a security threat. And it's asking to do these things without prior consent.

The news comes by way of a 10-page draft of the proposed rules, originally obtained and reported on by the New York Times. According to a congressional aide cited by the New York Times report, a confidential meeting took place on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

The proposed ability to monitor, disrupt, or damage an unmanned aerial system extends to both the drone itself and its payload or cargo. The Trump administration is also asking for permission to research and evaluate equipment for its ability to be used in a harmful way. However, the draft did note that these actions can only be pursued if the drone or its cargo "poses a threat to the safety or security of a covered facility, location, or installation or a covered operation."

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A covered facility or location is simply a US-owned non-mobile asset. A covered operation is a task or operation by the federal government or US military that is "important to public safety, law enforcement, or national or homeland security," such as border patrol or fighting wildfires, the draft stated.

Any of the proposed actions taken toward a drone must be done "while respecting privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties," the draft noted. However, it also stated, "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no court shall have jurisdiction to hear any cause or claim, including for money damages, against a covered person arising from any authorized action described in subsection."

By 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted that the number of drones in commercial fleets could hit 1.62 million. It also forecast that the overall market will see some 6.12 million drones in the skies.

The prevalence of drones and their growth in popularity has brought a host of privacy and security concerns. And drone mishaps around world leaders have raised the stakes. For example, in September 2014, a Parrot AR drone crashed in front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Then, on Monday, January 26, 2015, a drone crash landed on the White House lawn. With the increasing possibility for drone weaponization, these devices could pose an even greater risk in the future.

Additional drone disasters have also been reported, including drones carrying drugs over the US border and drones being flown too close to sports stadiums. Drones have also been flown too close to other aircraft, and one even cut off part of a woman's nose.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. A document from the Trump administration is asking Congress for the ability to monitor, track, seize, disrupt, and destroy any drone that it perceives to be a security threat.
  2. The proposal affects drones and their cargo if they pose a threat to "a covered facility, location, or installation or a covered operation."
  3. The FAA predicts some 6.12 million drones in the skies by 2021, further complicating the matter.

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