Earlier this summer, the International Association of Chief of Police (IACP) released a public statement from the IACP Homeland Security Committee, Terrorism Committee, Aviation Committee, and Communications and Technology Committee titled, “A Joint Resolution To Support The Enhancement Of Authorities For The Detection And Mitigation Of Unidentifiable, Malicious, And/Or Unauthorized Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).”

The statement is in response to the fact that no meaningful legislation regarding the expansion of Counter-UAS authorities has been passed in the United States since the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Additionally, the existing authorities for the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security are set to expire on September 30, 2023. To many law enforcement, public safety, and owners and operators of critical infrastructure, the lack of Congressional action has left our homeland vulnerable to the quickly evolving threat from the careless or nefarious use of UAS. To understand how we have arrived at this point, please visit A Short History of Law Enforcement C-UAS in the U.S. The article summarizes some of the laws and legislation introduced to date, including S. 1631, which contains many of the recommendations mentioned in the resolution from the IACP.

The IACP strongly supports a more comprehensive approach to airspace awareness and protection, including expanding authorities to law enforcement and critical infrastructure to “detect, identify, monitor, and track UAS.” The entire IACP joint statement is included below:

WHEREAS, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) recognizes that Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) provide significant economic and social benefits to the United States, and it is imperative for America to lead globally in this innovative technology; and WHEREAS, the IACP acknowledges the vast majority of UAS operations do not pose any threat; and

WHEREAS, the IACP believes that the misuse of UAS presents substantial economic, public safety, and national security risks. This includes disrupting commercial activity, industrial espionage, interfering with law enforcement and public safety operations, endangering others operating in the national airspace system and on the ground, terrorism and criminal activity, and other nefarious conduct; and

WHEREAS, currently, only four federal departments or agencies, the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have the authority to undertake counter-unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS) detection and mitigation actions for specifically tailored missions under specified conditions. While these authorities are crucial to protect the safety and security of critical facilities and assets, a more comprehensive approach is required to provide a layered defense and air domain awareness of sensitive public safety and private sector operations, events, and sites. Some of these include critical infrastructure facilities, prisons, mass gatherings such as sporting and entertainment events, emergency incident operations, and aviation operations. Without expanded authority, these types of events and venues face significant risk from malicious, reckless, and unauthorized UAS operations; and

WHEREAS, the nefarious use of drones is also recognized as a global and multi-national threat with the United States having experienced cross border incidents and the transport of illegal drugs, contraband, and explosives.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) urges federal legislation to support a comprehensive approach to address the proliferation of UAS systems and counteraction of UAS systems which would, at a minimum, include the following:

  • Expand DOJ and DHS existing authorities to protect critical infrastructure, crucial national assets, and commercial facilities such as transportation hubs, military installations, airports, and associated navigational aids facilities.
  •  Enable and authorize state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) law enforcement and critical infrastructure operators (including airports) to detect, identify, monitor, and track UAS in their jurisdictions and around their facilities, respectively.
  • Authorize and appropriate funding for pilot programs for state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) law enforcement (including airports) to deploy and evaluate C-UAS systems with appropriate controls in place, including federal training, certification, and oversight; and privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties controls commensurate with federal standards.
  • Enable federal departments or agencies to effectively conduct research, testing, training, and evaluation of C-UAS identification, detection, mitigation, and engagement technology and equipment;
  • Mandate inter-governmental coordination between federal departments or agencies, including DHS (including the Transportation Security Administration), DOJ (including the Federal Bureau of Investigation), the Department of Transportation (including the Federal Aviation Administration), the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and other appropriate federal, state, and local agencies.
  •  Establish a balance between expanded C-UAS authority while protecting privacy, ensuring aviation safety, enabling continued federal regulation and oversight of the national airspace, and allowing authorized commercial activity.
  • Expand the current Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) process to include an avenue for state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) law enforcement to coordinate directly with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to restrict UAS activity at special events without the need to make application through the federal departments or agencies.

Ensuring the safety and security of the national airspace and the associated ground risk is a crucial priority for our public safety organizations and the ability to counteract malicious, reckless, and unauthorized UAS operations plays a significant role in achieving that objective.

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Post Image- Law Enforcement Command Center (Image Credit: Adobe Stock by BPawesome)