President Biden’s administration asked for help from Congress to allow more law enforcement agencies access to drone tracking systems on Monday. In recent months, the government’s use of counter-drone systems has become more controversial after a Ukrainian government official asked drone maker DJI to cut off Russia’s access to its drone tracking system. AeroScope.
The White House’s outline of what it calls the “National Action Plan Against Domestic Unmanned Aircraft Systems” called on Congress to “reauthorize” the power to track drones granted to organizations such as the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Defense and State. (The plan also notes that the CIA and NASA also have limited powers.) The statement also calls on Congress to give more drone detection powers to state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies, as well only to ‘owners and operators of critical infrastructure’. Access to these types of systems was not available to national or local agencies previously, according to The Washington Post.
The administration’s plan calls for a trial program of select state, local and tribal agencies to work on drone mitigation as well as detection, and enable “critical infrastructure owners and operators” to “purchase equipment cleared for use by the appropriate state or federal authorities.” [state, local, and tribal] law enforcement to protect their facilities. It would also create a list of approved drone detection equipment (it already has a list of drones approved for government use) and set up a database for all government agencies to track drone incidents.
It should be noted that at this stage, these are recommendations made by the administration, and not laws in the process of being adopted. Congress also very well could pass legislation to, as the White House fact sheet puts it, “address critical gaps in existing law and policy” regarding drones without Biden’s backing. However, Department of Homeland Security and Justice officials signaled support for the plan.
The US government has been moving towards increased surveillance of drones for some time. In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration finalized new rules that will require any new drone to broadcast the location of the operator, along with an identification number that law enforcement can look up and flight information. of the drone. These rules will come into effect from September; it will be largely illegal to fly a drone without these capabilities a year later.
So it’s perhaps understandable that some drone pilots are concerned about the privacy implications of their local police department having access to equipment that not only tracks drones, but also the people who fly them.