US lawmakers make new push for expanded drone shootdown authority

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A group of bipartisan US lawmakers said on Monday they are making a new push to expand government authority to detect and destroy drones that could pose security threats.

Representatives Chrissy Houlahan, Mike Gallagher, Troy Carter and Mike Johnson introduced legislation that would allow state and local law enforcement and critical infrastructure operators to use drone detection technology. It would also authorize the Transportation Security Administration to proactively protect transportation infrastructure from drone threats.

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Houlahan said she thinks the bill could get attached to an annual defense bill. A parallel drone bill was introduced in the Senate in May.

“We really have not enough legislation that protects the American people from really catastrophic effects of a drone strike,” she told Reuters on Monday, adding that the push was sparked by concerns about drones in places including presidential inaugurations and high-profile sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the Olympics.

The bill would also reauthorize existing government drone authority that expires on Sept. 30 and create a new pilot program allowing a limited number of state and local law enforcement agencies under federal oversight to destroy threatening drones.

The White House and US sports leagues have been pushing since 2022 for expanded authority to detect and disable threatening drones.

The US Chamber of Commerce, National Football League, Major League Baseball and other organizations said in a June 5 letter that without expanded authority, airports and sporting events “are at substantial risk from malicious and unauthorized (drone) operation.”

On June 5, a drone sighting briefly disrupted flights at Pittsburgh International Airport. In September a drone crossed into a restricted area near the White House, which prompted an evacuation of the North Lawn.

The Homeland Security Department said last year that since 2021 officials reported nearly 2,000 drone sightings near US airports, “including incursions at major airports nearly every day.” The Justice Department said “outdoor mass gatherings, like open-air sports stadiums, are particularly vulnerable to drone attacks.”

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