FAA Issues Warning Over Weaponizing Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning this week advising that placing a dangerous weapon on a drone can result in a hefty fine. The notice reads: “Perhaps you’ve seen online photos and videos of drones with attached guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items. Do not consider attaching any items such as these to a drone because operating a drone with such an item may result in significant harm to a person and to your bank account.”

The agency notes that operating a drone that’s wielding a dangerous weapon is a violation of Section 363 of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act. A dangerous weapon is broadly defined as “any item that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury.” Violations of the Act could result in fines of up to $25,000 for each violation. Other state and federal laws restricting the use of weapons could also apply.

Drones equipped with these types of weapons have been readily available online for years. A drone being developed by Russian gun maker Kalashnikov can carry a payload of up to 3 kilograms designed to detonate near a target. Weaponized drones were also seen in Venezuela last year when two drones strapped with explosives detonated near Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro in an assassination attempt.

Weaponless drones have also been the subject of legal debates in the last few years. Airports in London, Newark, and Dubai have endured closures in the past year due to drones in or near the airports’ flight paths. The Department of Transportation and FAA are currently working with local police and other partners in certain regions as part of the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integrated Pilot Program.