Attorney General Says Justice Department Can Shoot Down ‘Threatening’ Drones

April 20, 2020 by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON – The U.S. attorney general issued a guidance this week that authorizes the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Prisons and other Justice Department agencies to intercept communications from threatening drones or destroy them without prior consent.

The policy is intended in part to prevent drone flights into “no drone zones” designated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Most often they are areas near airports, military bases and government buildings.

The FAA put many of the no-fly zones for drones in place after the 9/11 attacks. Violators face stiff fines and potential criminal penalties.

Although one definition of “threatening” under the guidelines refers to drones that trespass, others could be intercepted if they eavesdrop on private citizens.

The Justice Department guidance is raising alarms by industry groups that rely on drones as their workhorses.

The more than 1.5 million drones registered with the FAA are increasingly used for package deliveries, views of real estate and aerial news reporting.

Online retailer Amazon.com is leading the movement toward wider use of commercial drones. Last month, the company announced it hired former Boeing executive David Carbon to lead its drone delivery service.

“We’re very excited David Carbon joined Amazon to lead the next phase of our mission to bring 30-minute delivery by drones to customers,” Amazon said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said his guidelines “will ensure that we are positioned for the future to address this new threat, and that we approach our counter-drone efforts responsibly, with full respect for the Constitution, privacy and the safety of the national airspace.”

He added that the Justice Department agencies should be “sensitive” to “legitimate activity” of drones before taking action against them.

The FAA has certified about 160,000 remote pilots nationwide.

As complaints about near-misses with aircraft increased, Congress authorized the Justice and Homeland Security departments in 2018 to disable or destroy trespassing drones.

Other concerns came from U.S. military officials. They said drones could carry weapons or be equipped with spy cameras.

So far, the U.S. military leads the world with drone warfare, particularly in Afghanistan and Syria. Other countries are catching up in drone development. 

The attorney general’s guidance instructs law enforcement agencies to consult with the FAA to make a risk-based assessment of drone activity. It should include “potential effects on manned and unmanned aircraft, aviation safety, airport operations and infrastructure and air navigation services,” the guidance says.

For intercepted communications not used as evidence in criminal cases, the agencies can keep records of them for as much as three months.

The attorney general’s guidance precedes an expected announcement from the FAA that would change air space restrictions in populated areas.

The revised restrictions are likely to allow more short-range drone deliveries, such as from restaurants and grocery stores, according to aviation industry groups.

Joining Amazon in requests for more discretion in drone deliveries are internet giant Google and rideshare company Uber. Both of them seek to compete with Amazon.

Other political pressure is coming from the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing is creating a need for more hands-off retail service.

In The News

Health

Voting

Technology

Bipartisan Antitrust Package Seeks to Rein in Tech Giants
Congress
Bipartisan Antitrust Package Seeks to Rein in Tech Giants
June 11, 2021
by Dan McCue

House lawmakers on Friday introduced sweeping antitrust legislation aimed at restraining the power of large tech companies and preventing corporate consolidation across the economy. Introduced by Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member Ken Buck, R-Colo., the five bills are directed squarely... Read More

Public-Private Partnerships, Accurate Maps Should Drive US Broadband Deployment
Technology
Public-Private Partnerships, Accurate Maps Should Drive US Broadband Deployment
June 10, 2021
by Victoria Turner

In South Carolina, the state government is matching broadband service providers dollar-for-dollar if they build out networks to the identified unserved areas, said Andrew Rein, chief financial officer of telecommunications provider Hargray, Wednesday. And the need for accurately mapping these areas without access to high-speed broadband... Read More

Vaccine Credentials Are Going Digital But With Challenges
Health
Vaccine Credentials Are Going Digital But With Challenges
June 9, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck

Over half of adult Americans have now had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the Biden administration is working with private companies to soon offer digital vaccine credentials from a mobile device, which would allow Americans to prove they have been vaccinated against... Read More

Lawmakers Seek to Build, Diversify STEM Workforce
Technology
Lawmakers Seek to Build, Diversify STEM Workforce
June 9, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck

Zharia Akeem, 19-year-old student at Tufts University, said that after being accepted into its Bridge to Engineering Success program she saw a need to help and bridge the gap between engineering research and minority communities.  “I am the only person and woman of color in my... Read More

Ohio AG Yost Sues Google
In The States
Ohio AG Yost Sues Google
June 9, 2021
by Victoria Turner

COLUMBUS, Ohio - As Congress continues to grapple with whether high-speed internet should be considered essential infrastructure, as important as water and electricity, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost took an unprecedented step against Alphabet's Google yesterday. In what the AG's office statement describes as a "landmark... Read More

Biden Signs Executive Order to Protect Americans’ Data
Technology
Biden Signs Executive Order to Protect Americans’ Data
June 9, 2021
by Victoria Turner

WASHINGTON - In another step to further cement a democratic "digital economy" as opposed to "authoritarian controls and interests" like those of China, President Bident signed an executive order today to tackle the national security risks in the U.S.' information and communication technology and services supply... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top