US unveils new plan to crack down on criminals use of drones
The U.S. wants to crack down on the growing criminal use of drones with new rules that allow local law enforcement agencies and other groups to have anti-drone systems.
Efforts to address such activities are currently hindered by U.S. legal restrictions. The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits anyone from jamming aircraft in flight, including drones, while the Federal Communications Commission prohibits jamming of radio signals, a common anti-drone technique. Only a few federal agencies are allowed to shoot down drones in extreme situations, such as when critical infrastructure is threatened.
In the face of increasing crime and careless use of drones, U.S. police agencies have been calling for the use of anti-drone systems. Drones are often used to smuggle drugs across the Mexican border and into prisons, disrupting airport operations several times. Swarms of drones have invaded U.S. nuclear power plants and sites believed to house nuclear weapons.
The White House announced its National Action Plan for Domestic Counter-drone Systems, which will expand the powers of various agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, and will set up a counter-drone pilot program for local law enforcement agencies. It will also allow critical infrastructure operators to purchase counter-drone systems.
These systems may include rifle-like radio-frequency jammer gps that prevent communication between the drone and its operator. They have a longer range and are safer than shooting down drones with guns in populated areas. However, new U.S. legislation may not provide enough force fast enough to counter the rapidly growing threat. Commercial drones equipped with improvised explosives have been increasingly used by terrorists, insurgents and drug cartels since 2015.
The change would bring the US into line with the UK and EU, where police forces and prison authorities already have legal powers to fight crime-fighting drones, though often lacking the right equipment. An EU project to develop the ability to detect and combat bad drones should end in 2023, but member states will need some time to acquire and deploy recommended sensing and jamming hardware.
Having a national strategy (in the U.S.) is a good development, and these plans have brought some positive changes, especially with regard to airport protection.
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