The Biden administration recently released the “Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan”, calling on Congress to authorize more law enforcement agencies to access drone tracking systems. The White House’s proposal aims to expand the current pool of organizations authorized to track drones, such as the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Defense, and State, as well as the CIA and NASA. Furthermore, it recommends granting additional drone detection powers to state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies, as well as critical infrastructure owners and operators. These entities currently lack access to such systems, according to The Washington Post.
The proposed plan also suggests conducting a trial program for select state, local, and tribal agencies to work on drone mitigation and detection. Additionally, critical infrastructure owners and operators would be permitted to purchase authorized equipment to be used by appropriate federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to protect their facilities. The plan would establish an approved list of drone detection equipment (it already has a list of drones approved for government use) and create a database for all government agencies to track drone-related incidents.
It is important to note that, at this stage, these are recommendations made by the administration and not laws that are being passed. Furthermore, it is possible that Congress may have already passed laws to “close critical gaps in existing law and policy” around drones without the support of the Biden administration. Nonetheless, officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Justice have expressed their support for the plan.
The US government has been increasingly focused on regulating drones for some time now. In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration established new rules that will require any new drones to broadcast the operator’s location, as well as an identification number that law enforcement can look up, and information about the drone’s flight. These rules will take effect in September 2023, after which it will mostly be illegal to fly a drone without these capabilities.
It is understandable that some drone pilots may have concerns about the privacy implications of their local police department accessing equipment that tracks not only drones but also their operators.