TSA to Receive Power to Intercept Drones in Bipartisan Bill (1)

  • Government’s counter-drone authority expires in October
  • Homeland Security panel set to mark up legislation next week

(Updates throughout with additional reporting)

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Federal agencies would get broader authorities to take down menacing drones under a bipartisan bill senators plan to release Thursday.

The bill from Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), obtained by Bloomberg Government, would renew existing authorities and expand them so the Transportation Security Administration could take quick action to intercept aerial devices that threaten airports and other transportation infrastructure.

Just last week, an unauthorized drone halted take-offs and landings at Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D.C.

Photographer: Jason Arthurs/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A drone featuring a low altitude tracking and avoidance system is prepared for a demonstration in Durham, N.C., in 2015.

The bill “will bolster federal efforts to prevent unmanned aircraft systems from disrupting or harming lives and livelihoods, ensure federal agencies working to combat these threats are more accountable to the public, and protect the civil rights and liberties of responsible drone owners,” Peters said in a statement.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee plans to mark up the bill Aug. 3. Members of several committees in the House are working on companion legislation.

D.C. Airport Incident Exposes Gaps in Counter-Drone Authorities

The bill adopts recommendations the Biden administration made earlier this year in a legislative proposal, including a provision for a pilot program giving state and local authorities more power to take down problematic drones. The government’s counter-drone authority expires in October.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) are also cosponsors.

A Department of Homeland Security official told lawmakers earlier this month that the agency had received reports of more than 2,000 drone sightings near airports since last year.

Drone Threats to Border, Airports Ramp Up Pressure on Congress

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com

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