Officials echo White House call to broaden US anti-drone powers

US lawmakers, government officials, and even major sports organizations are stepping up to back a Biden administration call to create legislation that would considerably expand the number of actors permitted to undertake anti-drone measures to neutralize potential threats from UAVs.

In hearings by the House Department of Homeland Security Commission Thursday, a host of US administration officials and legislators voiced their support for adopting laws to widen anti-drone capacities. Those were initially outlined in April in the White House’s Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan. Joining that chorus were the National Football League, Major League Baseball, NCAA, and NASCAR, which in a joint letter urged moves to enlarge counter-UAV capacities to keep step with the rising number of craft in the skies – and potential threats those pose.

ReadWhite House seeks to enlarge actors authorized to track and zap suspect drones 

In 2018 Congress increased the anti-drone powers of the US Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify, intercept, or destroy UAVs operating illegally, posing threats, or seeking to do harm. 

With those measures expiring in October, the Biden administration has called not only for legislators to renew them. It also wants Congress to expand their authority to “the Departments of… Defense (and) State, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency and NASA in limited situations.” The proposal would also free the hands of local officials to take action against suspicious UAVs, including Transportation Security Administration and police.

Voices supporting that initiative came from several quarters. A main focus of enlarged anti-drone authority would be US airports, which have reported nearly 2,000 UAV incursions since 2021 – a rate of about one per day at a major US hub. Another area of broadened response capacities would be US borders, where use of aerial craft have been rising among drug and human smugglers.

Concerns about some of the multiplying numbers of UAVs being used for attacks was another factor cited. US Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann noted “outdoor mass gatherings, like open-air sports stadiums, are particularly vulnerable,” and therefore need to be protected using wider anti-drone protective measures. 

ReadUK to use drones against Russian threats during Commonwealth Games 

The major sports organizations seconded that view, stressing broadened anti-drone actors and action in the US “will play an important role in helping to ensure the safety of major sporting events, including the safety of the millions of American fans who attend these events each year.”

Backing that up with numbers, security officials said that during 70 preventive anti-drone operations the FBI has conducted since 2018 at events like the Super Bowl, 974 unauthorized UAVs were detected flying in restricted areas, leading to 279 pilot localizations, and 50 mitigation attempts.

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