White House to Congress: Expand State, Local Authority to Regulate Drones

The Biden administration is calling on Congress to expand authority for federal, state, and local governments to take action to counter threats posed by the malicious and illicit use of use of drones, which are becoming a growing security concern and nuisance.

The White House released an action plan that calls for expanding the number of agencies that can track and monitor drones flying in their airspace. In addition, the plan calls for specifying a list of US government-authorized detection equipment that federal and local authorities can purchase, and creating a national training center on countering the malicious use of drones.

Through the Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan, the Administration is working to expand where we can protect against nefarious UAS activity, who is authorized to take action, and how it can be accomplished lawfully.

The Plan seeks to achieve this legitimate expansion while safeguarding the airspace, communications spectrums, individual privacy, civil liberties and civil rights. To achieve this balance, the Administration is calling on Congress to adopt legislation to close critical gaps in existing law and policy that currently impede government and law enforcement from protecting residents and vital security interests.

While Drone operation in Maryland is broadly governed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the General Assembly enacted supplemental rules specific to Maryland drone operations. As such, counties and municipalities are preempted from enacting local ordinances that prohibit, restrict, or regulate the testing or operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

While some public safety agencies deploy UAVs to enhance emergency response operations, reports of potentially hazardous or unlawful drone activity — many of which occurred near airports or aircraft — increased dramatically over the past several years, according to the FAA.

According to a White House Fact Sheet:

The Plan provides eight key recommendations for action:

  1. Work with Congress to enact a new legislative proposal to expand the set of tools and actors who can protect against UAS by reauthorizing and expanding existing counter‑UAS authorities for the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Defense, State, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency and NASA in limited situations. The proposal also seeks to expand UAS detection authorities for state, local, territorial and Tribal (SLTT) law enforcement agencies and critical infrastructure owners and operators.  The proposal would also create a Federally-sponsored pilot program for selected SLTT law enforcement agency participants to perform UAS mitigation activities and permit critical infrastructure owners and operators to purchase authorized equipment to be used by appropriate Federal or SLTT law enforcement agencies to protect their facilities;
  2. Establish a list of U.S. Government authorized detection equipment, approved by Federal security and regulatory agencies, to guide authorized entities in purchasing UAS detection systems in order to avoid the risks of inadvertent disruption to airspace or the communications spectrum;
  3. Establish oversight and enablement mechanisms to support critical infrastructure owners and operators in purchasing counter-UAS equipment for use by authorized Federal entities or SLTT law enforcement agencies;
  4. Establish a National Counter-UAS Training Center to increase training accessibility and promote interagency cross-training and collaboration;
  5. Create a Federal UAS incident tracking database as a government-wide repository for departments and agencies to have a better understanding of the overall domestic threat;
  6. Establish a mechanism to coordinate research, development, testing, and evaluation on UAS detection and mitigation technology across the Federal government;
  7. Work with Congress to enact a comprehensive criminal statute that sets clear standards for legal and illegal uses, closes loopholes in existing Federal law, and establishes adequate penalties to deter the most serious UAS-related crimes; and
  8. Enhance cooperation with the international community on counter‑UAS technologies, as well as the systems designed to defeat them.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Maryland Aviation Administration Offers Guidance on Drone Rules, Regulations

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Time to Engage! Dogfight Between Drones and the Law

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