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The legislation introduced in the Senate would also establish a list of authorized detection equipment to ensure governments purchase approved technology.
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.
In testimony last month before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Brad Wiegmann, a deputy assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, said the current system where governments voluntarily apply for a Special Event Assessment Rating from DHS to deploy drone detection and mitigation at major events is insufficient. Wiegmann noted that state, local and federal officials requested an assessment for drone detection and mitigation services by DHS for more than 121,000 events.
“These numbers make clear that the demand for such support to protect our communities has far outstripped the federal government’s limited resources and that we cannot do this alone,” Wiegmann said.