Police in North Dakota are now authorized to use drones armed with tasers, tear gas, rubber bullets, and other "non-lethal" weapons, following the passage of Bill 1328.
Sponsored by Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck), the bill was originally intended to limit the police’s surveillance powers, and banned all weapons on law enforcement drones. Then a policy lobby group was allowed to amend the bill, though, at which point it only banned lethal weapons, writes The Daily Beast.
County Sheriff "doesn’t think he should need a warrant to go snooping."
Putting aside the fact that these weapons are not non-lethal, making it so these weapons can be controlled remotely likely isn’t going to help curb police abuse. North Dakota is also one of the six test sites in the US where researchers are trying to figure out how to integrate uncrwed aircraft into civilian airspace. Of all the test sites, North Dakota is also the only one where the FAA allows drones to be flown up to 1,200 feet above the entire state and permits flights at night.
Becker, the original bill’s Republican sponsor, seemed resigned. "This is one I’m not in full agreement with," he said at a hearing in March, according to The Daily Beast. "In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: drones should not be weaponized. Period."
And it's not just police forces considering the notion of weaponized drones: a video of a civilian arming a homemade drone with his own handgun recently went viral. The FAA and local authorities have so far concluded that he broke no laws, although a federal investigation is ongoing.