It is likely that the US Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice get authorized to shoot down drones.
A proposed bill presented on September 22, 2018 seeks to give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to monitor, disrupt, control and detain or confiscate any drone that is considered by the agency a threat without requirement of a warrant or undergoing due process of law.
This is part of a larger bill called H.R. 302 to grant authorization to the Federal Aviation Administration. The House is likely to vote on the measure on Wednesday with a Senate vote probable this week according to a report by Bloomberg.
The existing authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration expires on September 30, 2018.
The aim of granting government law enforcement agencies the power to shoot down drones is a bid to prevent incidents such as the drone attack on Venezuelean President Nicolas Maduro early on in the year. The bill is supported by the entrenched leaders in UAV arena, including AUVSI, which claims to be the largest non-profit organization in the world with an aim to develop unmanned aircraft systems and robotics.
Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI said that the authority to minimize threats can help government agencies preempt any evil efforts. Stringent rules and regulations against careless, irresponsible and mala fide intent will punish pilots who misuse Unmanned Aircraft Systems and will also pose to be a formidable deterrent.
However, there is an opposition offered by groups such as the National Press Photographers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. These groups claim that the language of the bill is too vague and could give the law enforcement agencies wide ranging powers to shoot down drones that are being flown for legal purposes.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) used the instances of journalists employing drones to document abuses at detention facilities as one of the reasons drones could be shot down for.
Journalists are not allowed access to detention facilities by the Department of Homeland Security. Even if the reporters are allowed to enter the facility, they are not permitted to capture images or record video footages. In the absence of other means to report on abusive activities by government agencies, drones have come up as a handy tool to document abuse at centers where children are held.
Apart from the bill, it is not legal to shoot down drones.
The FAA told Forbes in 2016 in reference to U.S.C. 32, shooting any UAV down poses a serious safety risk. It could crash, damage property or even collide with objects in the air.
According to NBC, the Government is not allowed to intercept communications without a legitimate warrant except in case of an emergency and are required to solicit permission from courts under the Title 18 Wiretap Laws. However, this new bill would allow federal authorities to track drones without seeking prior authorization including intercepting or disrupting their flights midair.