clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The US military can now shoot down consumer drones it considers a threat

Brush up on your no-fly zones

Phantom 4 flying Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The Pentagon has approved a new policy allowing military bases to shoot down private and commercial drones that are considered a threat. As reported by Military Times, the policy was first sent out in July, and though the exact contents are classified, it contains details on how to engage with drones when they are approaching or enter a military no-fly zone.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis says the infringing drones can be seized and that “the new guidance does afford of the ability to take action to stop these threats and that includes disabling, destroying, and tracking.” How a base responds to a drone “will depend upon the specific circumstances.”

Some army bases have been considered no-fly zones for years, along with national parks, major sports stadiums when events are occurring, and anything within a five-mile radius of a major airport and a 15-mile radius of Reagan National Airport. Earlier this year, the FAA also banned unauthorized drone use over 133 additional military facilities.

Previously, penalties for unauthorized drone use in no-fly zones has only included fines and / or jail time, though enforcement of these penalties is difficult due to inconsistent violation language and, according to a report by Motherboard, disorganization within the FAA that has lead to a “fragmented” database for drone infractions.

The Department of Defense says the policy will affect 133 military facilities, presumably the same ones that recently banned unauthorized drone use.

Some drones have built-in geofencing to avoid no-fly zones, but the measure is not foolproof. Modifications can be easily bought from companies like Russian software entity Coptersafe, which lets DJI drones get past government- and military-enforced no-fly zones. As a result of the vulnerabilities, the US Army recently asked all units to discontinue the use of DJI drones for missions.

The new Pentagon policy comes on the heels of a separate proposal from the Trump administration which seeks to let government agencies monitor any unpiloted aircraft system (UAS) flying over an American “covered facility, location, or installation” and disable or destroy it if deemed a threat.