As more tower companies use drones for initial tower inspections, an advisory from the DOJ, the FAA, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the FCC issued Monday is of interest. They released the document to help non-federal public and private entities understand the federal laws and regulations that may apply to the use of capabilities to detect and mitigate threats posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations.
The “Advisory on the Application of Federal Laws to the Acquisition and Use of Technology to Detect and Mitigate Unmanned Aircraft Systems” provides a brief overview of various provisions of the U.S. criminal code enforced by DOJ. The document also covers federal laws and regulations related to aviation safety and efficiency, transportation and airport security, and the RF spectrum administered respectively by the FAA, DHS, and FCC.
“As the number of drones in our airspace continue to rise, it is unsurprising that the availability of counter-drone technologies has likewise increased,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. “Because these technologies may be presented for sale without a full discussion of important legal requirements, this advisory steps forward to provide an outline of the relevant legal landscape. By encouraging a common understanding of potentially applicable laws, the advisory can help foster responsible industry growth and promote public safety.”
The advisory has been issued at a time when the commercial demand for drone detection and mitigation is high, but the authority to use those capabilities is not clear. To date, Congress has given limited authority to only four federal Departments – Defense, Energy, Justice, and Homeland Security – to engage in UAS detection and mitigation activities. The departments and agencies issuing the advisory do not have the authority to approve non-federal public and private use of UAS detection or mitigation capabilities, nor do they conduct legal reviews of commercially available products’ compliance with those laws.
The advisory urges entities to take the advice presented in this document seriously – to consult with counsel and think carefully about the functionality of individual detection or mitigation systems, the way the system operates, and the way the system will be used. A thorough understanding of how a system functions and the applicable law is necessary to ensure that, if drone detection and mitigation technologies are employed, they will be used effectively, responsibly, and legally.
Additional state or local laws may apply, and the public should further consider the impacts such technology could have on privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights.
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