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US Congress approves bill granting warrantless private drone take-downs

Published Oct 5, 2018 |
Brittany Hillen

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Following approval by the House earlier this year, the United States Senate has passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act, which was delivered to the White House on October 3, 2018. Under this bill, which grants the FAA federal funding through 2023, law enforcement officials are given the authority to shoot down and/or confiscate private drones if they’re deemed a credible threat.
As noted recently by The Washington Post, the new bill allows officials to shoot down private drones if they’re “identified as high-risk and a potential target for unlawful unmanned aircraft activity.” In these cases, law enforcement isn’t required to have a warrant to take down or confiscate the aerial vehicle.
Last month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) expressed concerns over the reauthorization bill, stating that it had been “stuffed with last-minute provisions that would strip people of their constitution rights.”
Among other things, the EFF pointed toward the warrantless downing of private drones, as well as the lack of a requirement to warn operators when they’re flying in restricted airspace. As well, “the bill still has no process for clearly stating what areas are “covered facilities,” so that the public can know where they are allowed to fly,” the EFF explains.
Critics worry the new authority will enable the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to take down camera drones used during protests and by reporters, activists, and photographers, all without a warrant. Private drone owners also risk losing possession of their drone if it is confiscated without warning due to being labelled a “threat.”

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