The Biden administration is looking to expand its defenses against drones, urging Congress to pass a law that would allow law enforcement to access drone tracking systems. On Monday, the White House released its “Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan,” in which it referred to drones as “risks to public safety, privacy, and homeland security.”
The plan calls on Congress to reauthorize the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Defense, State, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, for use of drone mitigation technology which would identify suspicious drones and possibly destroy or forcibly land them.
The administration is referring to the threat of drones being used in criminal activity such as aerial drug deals. In January 2021, two men were arrested for allegedly using a drone to drop off drugs and a cell phone to an inmate at an Ohio prison.
On the other hand, drones are increasingly being used by police departments across the U.S. According to a recent survey by the Atlas of Surveillance at the University of Nevada, at least 1,172 police departments have started using drones, with that number expected to increase over time.
The administration’s recent proposal also calls for local and state authorities to have access to drone mitigation technology, allowing “critical infrastructure owners and operators to purchase authorized equipment to be used by appropriate Federal or SLTT (state, local, territorial and Tribal) law enforcement agencies to protect their facilities.”
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas showed his support of the proposal, saying that it is “vital to enabling DHS and our partners to have the necessary authorities and tools to protect the public, the President and other senior officials, federal facilities, and U.S. critical infrastructure from threats posed by the malicious and illicit use of unmanned aircraft systems.”
The U.S. administration has been keeping a close watch on the unmanned tiny aircraft for a while. Last year, Congress was considering passing a five-year ban on U.S. government purchases of drones manufactured or assembled in China out of fear that the Chinese government may be using the drones to spy on critical infrastructure. Instead, the Pentagon encouraged the manufacturing of drones in the U.S. so as not to rely on Chinese companies such as DJI for drones.
Also in 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration enforced new rules on drones that required them to present identification and location information that would allow authorities to be able to identify them.
The recent action plan to mitigate the use of drones claims that it would still allow for the commercial and recreational use of the small aircraft.