White House Wants Agents to Be Able to Down Civilian Drones

  • Administration seeks legislation enhancing drone security
  • Similar effort last year failed to win legislative suppport

The White House is preparing to propose giving law enforcement and security agencies the authority to track and disable in flight civilian drones that present a threat.

The administration of President Donald Trump is working on the measure as part of its effort to both speed the introduction of rapidly expanding drone technology and to address growing security concerns, Michael Kratsios, an assistant to the president who is deputy U.S. technology officer, said Tuesday.

Technology exists that can track a drone by monitoring its radio-control signals. It is also possible to seize control of an errant drone, or to render it inoperable by jamming the signals. But laws prohibit using many of those technologies, hampering the ability to security agencies to respond to threats.

While Kratsios offered few details of the plan in remarks to a Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored conference on civilian drones in Baltimore, the effort has been underway for months and involves multiple U.S. agencies, according to an official briefed on the talks.

Current U.S. law, including wiretapping statutes and other aviation regulations, make it difficult to use existing tools to track drone flights, said the official, who asked not to be named because the proposal isn’t final.

A similar effort was presented to lawmakers last year, but wasn’t attached to legislation and was never enacted. Multiple recent incidents, including the first confirmed collision between a drone and a traditional aircraft on Sept. 21, have heightened the urgency for greater protections, said the official.

At the same time, the FAA is also drafting a new regulation that will require some or all small consumer drones to broadcast their identity and position. The purpose is to improve safety and allow law enforcement to better track potential threats.

National security officials, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice are among those in the discussions on the proposal.

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