Proposed bill would allow police to shoot down drones

Idiot pilots are flying too close to fires. Should first responders be able to shoot them down?


David Lifferth is no friend to reckless drone pilots. More accurately, the state representative for Utah's House District 2 is on a crusade to reduce the impact he believes autonomous aerial vehicles are having on the ability of first responders, such as aerial firefighters, to do their jobs.

There have been some well-publicized incidents of drones accidentally impeding emergency crews. For safety reasons, helicopters and airplanes are generally diverted if an unidentified drone is in the area.

Lifferth proposed HB 420 in Utah's 2016 General Session. The so-called Unmanned Vehicle Amendments bill would enable "a public safety official to neutralize an unmanned vehicle that interferes with a response to an emergency."

According to the bill "neutralize" means to force the termination of the operation of an unmanned vehicle by:

(a) disabling or damaging the unmanned vehicle; (b) interfering with any portion of the unmanned vehicle system associated with the unmanned vehicle; or (c) otherwise taking control of the unmanned vehicle or the unmanned vehicle system associated with the unmanned vehicle

There's been some early speculation that Lifferth's bill, if signed into law, could theoretically cover the use of firearms by police and first responders. The bill makes no explicit mention of guns, but since sidearms and shotguns are currently the only standard issue kit for police forces that could be used to down a drone, it's an important point to consider.

The bill comes as law enforcement around the world are dealing with the sudden proliferation of a technology that has far reaching implications for privacy and public safety. Harkening back to Saturday morning cartoons, various net-based solutions have been proposed.

Michigan Tech's HIROLab recently unveiled a proof of concept net cannon to capture rogue drones:

And Japan has tested a dragnet solution in which a large drone flies over the smaller prey drone and catches it in a net:

But my favorite solution is au naturel. The Dutch are considering deploying birds of prey, including eagles, to catch drones flying where they shouldn't be. Just like God intended.