White House seeks expanded powers to detect, destroy threatening drones

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The White House said Monday it is seeking expanded powers from Congress to detect and disable threatening drones, including winning specific authority to protect airports.

Congress in 2018 expanded the authority of the Justice Department and Homeland Security (DHS) Departments to disable or destroy threatening drones, which are formally known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), but the Biden administration says it needs more authority as the number of registered drones jumps dramatically.

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The bill would also expand detection abilities by owners of airports and other critical infrastructure like oil refineries.

The White House released its “Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan” and said it would create a drone incident tracking database “as a government-wide repository for departments and agencies to have a better understanding of the overall domestic threat.”

The White House said the proliferation of drones “has also introduced new risks to public safety, privacy, and homeland security. Malicious actors have increasingly used UAS domestically to commit crimes, conduct illegal surveillance and industrial espionage, and thwart law enforcement efforts.”

A proposal sent to Congress earlier this month says since 2018 DHS agencies including the US Secret Service and the Federal Protective Service, have used detection and counter-drone technologies “over 200 times, often in sensitive protective missions.”

The report said the Federal Aviation Administration now receives more than 100 drone sighting reports a month.

Read more: US-led coalition fighter jet shoots down drone over Syria

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