The United States Federal Aviation Administration published a notice, on Friday, to warn drone owners—and the general public—of the legal ramifications of weaponizing a drone.
Yes, it sounds like something out of a movie but the notice published yesterday under the title “Drones and Weapons, A Dangerous Mix” warns that “weaponizing” can mean outfitting a drone with any number of things, not just firearms.
In the notice, the FAA says, “Perhaps you’ve seen online photos and videos of drones with attached guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items. Do not consider attaching any items such as these to a drone because operating a drone with such an item may result in significant harm to a person and to your bank account.”
In terms of harm to a person, the FAA is concerned, of course, that these weapons could cause serious harm: up to and including death. In terms of your bank account, though, weaponizing a drone is a specific violation of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, Section 363, which carries the title “Prohibition Against Weapons.” This section reads: “Unless authorized by the Administrator, a person may not operate an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system that is equipped or armed with a dangerous weapon.”
And violating this order could result in a fine of $25,000. And that is per violation.
And to clarify, the statute also defines a “dangerous weapon” as any item that can be used for (or is already capable of) causing serious bodily injury, including death.
For many people, this may seem like a somewhat ludicrous measure to need but drones have become more common these days. Farmers can monitor their crops and their herds with drones while real estate agents can provide a first-person look at their properties. Some states even use drones to get a closer look at emergencies like forest fires. And they are used not only in commercial operations, but they are increasing in popularity among casual, recreational users these days as well.