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Monday, September 26th, 2022

Senate to consider bill to renew, expand federal oversight of drones

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The Safeguarding the Homeland from the Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Act crossed its first legislative hurdle last week, after it was advanced from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to full Senate consideration.

A joint work from U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), the bill would renew and bolster the existing authorities provided to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to counter threats posed by UAS, more commonly known as drones. Those authorities are set to expire this October without Congressional action.

“The threats posed by malicious unmanned aircraft are too great to ignore,” Johnson said. “This bill will increase our ability to fight the growing threat of criminal drone activity across the country. It is paramount that our national security agencies have the tools they need to mitigate the serious threats posed by UAS.”

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates, by 2024 about 2.3 million drones will be registered for flight in U.S. airspace. While they have proven popular in the private sphere, Johnson warned that the increasing numbers of UAS also pose a higher risk of unintentional disasters and collisions, or malicious activities from other nations or criminal organizations seeking to weaponize them or use the drones in illegal activities, such as drug trafficking.

The bill was co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Its advancement followed a July hearing with federal officials to address how federal agencies are countering drone-based threats.