End-users of counter-drone technology outside of the defense sector, including public safety, law enforcement, critical infrastructure, corporate security, and others, not to mention the counter-drone industry itself, have been not-so-patiently waiting for changes to U.S. legislation. Many of us have been wondering about the status of C-UAS legislation introduced this year.
Current U.S. federal law inhibits the use of some counter-UAS or counter-drone technologies that violate federal statutes, such as those used to disrupt, disable, or destroy a drone (mitigate) that are assessed as a threat or systems that “decode” a radio frequency signal that could violate existing federal law such as The Wiretap Act or The Pen/Trap Statute.
Only four agencies have legislative relief from federal statutes in specific circumstances to use technology that would otherwise be illegal- the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS), Defense (DOD), and Energy (DOE). No new legislation has been passed to tackle this security challenge in (checks notes) five years!
For more information on the use of counter-UAS detection and mitigation technologies in the United States, please visit Advisory on the Application of Federal Laws to the Acquisition and Use of Technology to Detect and Mitigate Unmanned Aircraft Systems
The logical and thoughtful expansion of authorities to conduct this mission at both the federal and local level have been viewed by most as the next step to secure the homeland from this quickly evolving airborne threat proactively. Various bills have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate this legislative session related to counter-UAS. What is the current status?
How did we get to this point? See A Short History of Law Enforcement C-UAS in the U.S.
The authorities for DOJ and DHS to conduct this mission were set to expire on September 30, 2023. The authorities originally expired on October 5th, 2022, but were extended last year through a series of continuing resolutions until President Biden signed an almost $1.7 trillion government spending package in late December 2022. The spending package included extending the authority for those agencies until the end of the U.S. government fiscal year.
Over the weekend, the U.S. House and Senate passed a continuing appropriations bill that keeps the government open for a few more weeks. The bill partially funded the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It also extended the authorities of DOJ and DHS until November 18, 2023.
Where does this leave us? To save you some time, we’ve provided you with the status as of October 1, 2023, of many (not all) of the bills of interest being monitored by corrections, public safety, critical infrastructure, airports, stadiums and public venues, the counter-UAS industry, and others. All updates are from Congress.gov.
Status of C-UAS Legislation
H.R. 4333 – Safeguarding the Homeland from the Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act of 2023
This bipartisan bill from the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored by Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) is designed to bolster the federal government’s ability to safeguard the nation against the risks posed by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). It accomplishes this by renewing current powers and creating innovative channels for federal agencies to work together on counter-drone efforts at the state and community levels.
The bill currently has seven (7) co-sponsors- Four Republicans and three Democrats.
The bill was introduced to the House on June 23, 2023, and was referred to the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on June 29, 2023.
This bill is the companion bill to S. 1631, further detailed below. For a summary of the bill, please visit House Introduces Companion C-UAS Legislation
S. 1631– Safeguarding the Homeland from the Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act of 2023
This bipartisan bill, introduced in the Senate, is sponsored by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI).
This bill offers statutory relief to State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial (SLTT) entities, airport and critical infrastructure owners and operators, permitting them to employ radio frequency detection equipment that might otherwise be deemed unlawful. This provision would empower these entities to utilize a comprehensive array of authorized detection tools, subject to any necessary training, coordination, and licensing requirements (if applicable). Furthermore, the bill extends the authority of DOJ and DHS as established by the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018. It grants additional authorities to select SLTT agencies to participate in a pilot mitigation program.
The bill currently has nine (9) co-sponsors- Five Republicans, three Democrats, and one Independent.
The bill was introduced in the Senate on May 16, 2023, and was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs the same day.
This bill is the companion bill to H.R. 4333, further detailed above. A summary of the bill can be found within the article, A Short History of Law Enforcement C-UAS in the U.S.
H.R. 1501– Unmanned Aerial Safety Act
This bipartisan bill, introduced in the House, is sponsored by Representative Michael Guest (R-MS-3)
This bill prohibits the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from operating, financing, or procuring unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or UAS operating, detection, or identification systems manufactured in certain foreign countries or by corporations domiciled in such foreign countries.
The bill currently has ten (10) co-sponsors- Nine Republicans and one Democrat.
The bill was introduced in the House on March 9, 2023, and referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security that day. The bill was passed/agreed to in the House. It was received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on September 5, 2023.
For more information on this legislation, please visit H.R. 1501- Unmanned Aerial Security Act
S. 896– Stopping Harmful Incidents to Enforce Unlawful Drone Use Act
This bill is sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT).
In particular, this legislation grants authorization for state, local, and airport law enforcement entities to engage in Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System (Counter-UAS) operations within the confines of commercial service airport premises. These operations are designed to detect, identify, and mitigate potential threats from unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also authorized to conduct similar counter-UAS activities.
Furthermore, the bill extends authorization for state and local law enforcement to conduct Counter-UAS operations beyond the boundaries of commercial airport property. To facilitate this, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must establish a structured process that encourages collaboration and coordination between these law enforcement entities.
The bill currently has no co-sponsors.
The bill was introduced to the Senate on March 21, 2023. There are no further actions listed on Congress.gov.
For more information on this legislation, please visit S.896- Shield U Act- CUAS for SLTT and Airports
S. 1443– Protecting the Border from Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act
This bipartisan bill is sponsored by Senator James Lankford (R-OK).
This Act mandates the creation of an interagency strategy to establish a coordinated framework for counter-unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS) capabilities and safeguards along the international borders of the United States.
Within 180 days from the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in collaboration with key stakeholders including the Attorney General, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Energy, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Secretary of Defense, shall formulate a strategy aimed at developing a unified approach to C-UAS capabilities and protections in two key areas:
1. Covered facilities or assets situated along the international borders of the United States.
2. Any other border-adjacent facilities or assets where such capabilities might be employed in accordance with federal law.
The bill currently has one (1) co-sponsor- One Independent.
The bill was introduced in the Senate on May 4, 2023. It was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on May 17, 2023.
For additional information on this proposed legislation, please visit S.1443- Protecting the Border from UAS.
H.R. 3560– National Drone and Advanced Air Mobility Research and Development Act
Although not a specific counter-UAS bill, this legislation, sponsored by Representative Frank D. Lucas (R-OK-3), includes language for counter-UAS research.
Within a two-year timeframe following the enactment of this Act, the interagency working group is mandated to create and periodically revise, as necessary, a strategic blueprint for Federal research, development, assessment, and experimentation related to counter-unmanned aircraft systems (counter-UAS) technologies. This strategic plan should be consistent with the prevailing legal frameworks that govern counter-UAS systems.
This bill currently has no co-sponsors.
The bill was introduced in the House on May 22, 2023, and referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the Committees on Oversight and Accountability, Homeland Security, and Transportation and Infrastructure that same day. It was referred to the Subcommittee on Aviation on May 23, 2023. On May 24, 2023, it was Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
For additional information on this legislation, please visit H.R. 3560- Enhances Counter-UAS Research
What is next?
Don’t pull the fire alarm just yet (too soon?). Over the next six weeks or so, we will continue to monitor the status of C-UAS legislation that will impact the security of the United States. As you can see, there is still a lot of work to do.
Will counter-UAS legislation be wrapped into the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, or will it be its own separate legislation? Will Congress kick the can down the road again? Stay tuned!
Post Image Credit: envatoelements by YuriArcursPeopleimages)