In brief: A controversial bill allowing authorities to destroy private drones without prior authorization has passed through the Senate and is destined for Trump's desk where it is expected to be signed into law. What will the ramifications be for journalists and recreational fliers alike?
The US government will soon have the legal right to take action against private drones it believes pose a “credible threat” to the “safety or security of a covered facility or asset.”
The authority is granted as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act that was recently approved by the Senate. The bill is headed to President Trump’s desk where it is expected to be signed into law.
If passed, authorities would be allowed – without prior authorization – to “disrupt control” of a drone by means of intercepting it, interfering with its operation, seizing control of it, confiscating it using reasonable force or to “disable, damage or destroy” it.
Unsurprisingly, both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have opposed the bill.
In a statement issued to TechCrunch, an ACLU spokesperson said the provisions give the government virtually carte blanche to surveil, seize or even shoot a drone out of the sky with no oversight or due process. “They grant new powers to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to spy on Americans without a warrant,” the spokesperson said.
The EFF’s stance is virtually identical, telling TechCrunch, “If lawmakers want to give the government the power to hack or destroy private drones, then Congress and the public should have the opportunity to debate how best to provide adequate oversight and limit those powers to protect our right to use drones for journalism, activism, and recreation.”