Should Law Enforcement Officials Be Able to Shoot Down Drones?

As drones become more popular for commercial and recreational use, it is almost inevitable that they will conflict with federal efforts such as fighting fires and other types of emergency response work. According to the US Forest Service, drones interfered with fighting more than a dozen wildfires in 2015.

Efforts to deal with this issue vary throughout the country. Several states have proposed shooting down drones, although the legislation hasn’t yet passed in the US. However, Utah has joined the ranks of states proposing ways to “neutralize” drones.

Utah State Senator Wayne Harper proposed a bill that would allow law enforcement to do just that. Options could include jamming their signals, convincing their operators to more them, or even shooting them down. Whether this bill will be successful remains to be seen, since state or federal law already covers most of Harper’s proposal.

Representative David Lifferth authored a similar bill, although he said that shooting down a drone is the least desirable way to get rid of it, since doing so could be dangerous. However, Marissa Villasenor, the spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Public Safety said that public safety responders have been able to track down and contact drone operators when the machines have gotten in the way of public safety.

While no state currently allows agencies to shoot down drones, legislation allowing this nearly came to pass in several states. California’s governor vetoed a bill in 2015 that would have protected emergency personnel from certain repercussions if they damaged a drone that was interfering with their work.

Also in 2015, Oklahoma considered a proposal that would have allowed property owners to shoot down droves flying over their property. That effort also failed. In one particularly extreme measure, a town in Colorado let the public vote on whether to issue hunting licenses to shoot down drones in 2014. It failed by nearly 3 to 1.

It remains to be seen whether states will act to neutralize drones that interfere with work to protect the public, or whether jurisdictions will continue to abide by the federal laws on this matter.