Police Eye Anti-Drone Weapons As Solution To Drone Issues
Washington, DC - Federal law enforcement are looking at anti-drone weapons to take down the machines causing trouble at crime scenes.
Unfortunately, while he technology to remove a drone from a scene exists, the laws which would permit officers to take that step do not.
Police told Fox News that there are limited rules where people can fly drones as a hobby, but they're not enough for real-life, daily situations because they're unenforceable.
They said that it is almost impossible to tell the difference between negligent operators, criminals, and potential terrorists, giving the latter the upper hand against those responsible for protecting the public.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an updated terrorism advisory bulletin on Nov. 9 warning American citizens of the real possibility of terrorists using weaponized drones as a way to attack commercial aircraft in America.
Sergeant Randy Sterett, Bomb Squad Commander for the Orange County (California) Sheriff's Office, said that the threat is real, according to U.S. News & World Report.
“Some of these drones can fly anywhere from one to 15 pounds of explosives, which is a huge, huge amount of explosives,” Sgt. Sterett said.
"There's been the SWAT operation going on and a UAV [drone] driving—flying—right into the front yard and watching as they're approaching the house, putting their safety and the safety of those who are in the community at risk," he said.
Other first responders, particularly firefighters, have had to shut down operations because of unauthorized drones. They can damage an aircraft or even take an aircraft out of the air, according to Ronald Walls, assistant chief for the San Bernardino Fire Department.
In 2016, there were more than 40 reported incidents of drones flying near wildfires.
In fact, drones were blamed for nearly two dozen vehicles being torched on a major highway in San Bernardino during California's 2015 North Fire.
Asst. Chief Walls said that air operations had to be shut down because of drones, meaning rescue aircraft couldn’t continue to drop water on the fire. He said those vehicles probably wouldn’t have caught fire if there hadn’t been drones in the area.
There is a way to remove a problem drone from the air above a police or fire scene.
One technology group, IXI Technology, has invented the “Drone-Killer,” a device that looks like a large plastic gun.
It sends radio signals to the drone and forces it to go back to where it came from. If that doesn't work, the device can jam a drone's GPS signals and force it to land.
The “Drone-Killer" would be an effective tool for police officers and firefighters, but at this time it cannot be used without special authorization.
Only three states - California, Louisiana, and Utah - have laws that allow first responders to disable drones, and they mostly apply to firefighters when they're fighting fires, according to ARS Technica.
A bi-partisan bill, the Drone Federalism Act of 2017, has been introduced by U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and other lawmakers.
The bill would give local governments the ability to regulate drones flying below 200 feet. It would allow local laws to be passed that make those low-flying drones a trespassing offense.
“I want to make sure that, at least within 200 feet of the surface, state and local law enforcement officers, state and local governments, have authority to protect public safety and to protect the privacy of members of the public from any invasion that might come as a result of drones,” Lee said.
Recreational drones are allowed to fly up to 400 feet above the surface. The proposed law would still leave the area between 200 and 400 feet above the ground unregulated on a local level.
Authorities said another problem is that it's almost impossible to track down a drone’s owners. Drone owners who use them for hobbies are not required to register the tail number, unlike manned aircraft.
Sgt. Sterett said that there needs to be more accountability.
“We’ve had [drones] surveilling police headquarters, and breaching security at local jails," he said.
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