Kelly, Grassley, Cassidy Lead Bipartisan Bill to Criminalize Dangerous Drone Activity

For the first time, the Drone Act of 2022 would create comprehensive federal laws prohibiting most dangerous uses of drones

Today, Senator Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced the Drone Act of 2022. Their bipartisan proposal seeks to criminalize dangerous drone activity – including by drug and human traffickers who have embraced drone technology to facilitate their operations. Alarmingly, criminals have started attaching weapons to drones, posing a serious threat to national security and public safety.

“From my years serving in the Navy, I know firsthand the power drone technology offers. In the wrong hands, it can pose security risks, which is why Senator Grassley and I are introducing the Drone Act to stop the illegal use of drones, like for drug trafficking, and to increase penalties for the most serious crimes,” said Kelly. “It’s critical that we give law enforcement the tools to accomplish its mission of keeping our communities safe and our borders secure against criminal organizations.”

“As drone technology advances and drone usage becomes more widespread, it’s imperative that we modernize the law to deter criminal activity. Drones offer great potential for revolutionizing how we do business in this country, and a lot of work went into making sure this bill wouldn’t stifle all the positive aspects of drone innovation. A lot of work also went into making sure this bill gives law enforcement the tools it needs to go after terrorists and drug cartels that use drones to advance their criminal enterprises. Moving forward, I’ll continue working with my colleagues to ensure drone laws strike the right balance – allowing this technology to improve efficiency for businesses, law enforcement, military operations and recreation while curbing illegal activity,” said Grassley. 

“From the southern border to cities across the country, criminals are using drones to smuggle drugs, weapons and commit crimes that put Americans at risk,” said Dr. Cassidy. “We must confront this new threat.”

Even though commercial drones have become more accessible and more advanced, federal law has not caught up with the new technology. The Drone Act of 2022 would ensure drug traffickers and terrorists cannot use drones to carry out crime or violent attacks. In border states like Arizona, this is significant. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported an increase in different Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) detected along the Southwest border. Yuma Sector Border Patrol also recently intercepted drones smuggling narcotics across the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Currently, federal law prohibits certain uses for drones, but those provisions are limited and fail to address a wide range of illicit activity. The Drone Act of 2022 will expand the list of criminal offenses and increases penalties to ensure law enforcement has the tools to enforce against bad actors who use drones for illicit activities. Among others, additional criminal offenses include:                                     

  • Attaching a firearm, explosive or other dangerous weapon to a drone
  • Using a drone to cause serious bodily injury or death to a person, or causing damage to property
  • Interfering with a law-enforcement activity
  • Transporting contraband with a drone
  • Crossing the U.S. border with a drone

Similar proposals have been considered and supported by both the previous and current administrations. Kelly, Grassley, and Cassidy’s bill modifies these previous proposals to reflect feedback from industry leaders and other key stakeholders while focusing the stiffest penalties on the most dangerous uses of drones.

The bill text is available HERE.

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