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State and local law enforcement may get drone detection authority

  • 5 days ago

A bipartisan bill introduced last week in the Senate would give state and local law enforcement the ability to use drone detection technology approved by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Safeguarding the Homeland from the Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act renews and expands existing authorities and would create a pilot program to encourage state, local and federal law enforcement agencies to better coordinate on mitigating threats from drones.

The legislation comes on the heels of the White House releasing its Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan in April, which proposed that state, local, territorial and tribal governments have expanded drone detection authority. It suggested establishing a list of authorized detection equipment to ensure governments purchase approved technology. The plan also urged the creation of a pilot program to aid with governmental coordination.

The White House’s action plan received support from the business community. In a Monday letter to congressional leadership, Tom Quaadman, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center, said the organization supports expanding drone mitigation authority and the pilot program.

But Quaadman said Congress “must ensure robust coordination” with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure the FAA’s mandate to regulate airspace safety is not impeded. 

Local officials have also pushed for expanded authority for law enforcement to counter drone activity. The U.S. Conference of Mayors endorsed the White House plan at its annual meeting in June, saying that local agencies should be authorized to protect vulnerable government buildings, airports and critical infrastructure from drone threats. 

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