back to article Hmmm, we can already seize your stuff, so why can't we shoot down your drone, officials mull

The US government is worried about its capacity for discrimination, at least with respect to drones. It wants to extend its military's right to seize, surveil, or intercept drones to civilian agencies, the FBI, and criminal prosecutors. Rather than let Uncle Sam's armed forces have all the fun, why not give federal busybodies …

  1. tip pc Bronze badge

    Do Americans shoot at commercial aircraft?

    I can see issues with low end government agency types drunkenly shooting at normal airliners with an excuse they thought it was a drone.

    I guess the drone authorised fly list will automatically ban people with names similar to those on the no fly list from flying their drones. I guess some people will resort to lying to fly their drones illegally.

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: Do Americans shoot at commercial aircraft?

      I can see issues with low end government agency types drunkenly shooting at normal airliners with an excuse they thought it was a drone.

      This one is a drone and that one is an airliner that is far away

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Do Americans shoot at commercial aircraft?

      "I guess some people will resort to lying to fly their drones illegally."

      More likely, they'll do what they do now: ignore any federal registration requirements.

  2. Potemkine! Silver badge

    US policemen can shoot hundreds of people each year with very few consequences, why couldn't they also shoot drones? Is private property worth more than a human life?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Bat Guano has your answer

      Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Colonel... that Coca-Cola machine. I want you to shoot the lock off it. There may be some change in there.

      Colonel "Bat" Guano: That's private property.

      Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Colonel! Can you possibly imagine what is going to happen to you, your frame, outlook, way of life, and everything, when they learn that you have obstructed a telephone call to the President of the United States? Can you imagine? Shoot it off! Shoot! With a gun! That's what the bullets are for, you twit!

      Colonel "Bat" Guano: Okay. I'm gonna get your money for ya. But if you don't get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you?

      Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: What?

      Colonel "Bat" Guano: You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.

      It's his blank look that really sells the line

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is private property worth more than a human life?

      It all depends on whose private property it is but yes.

    3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      America

      You know the answer to that question.

    4. King Jack

      Is private property worth more than a human life?

      It depends on the colour of your skin.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is private property worth more than a human life?

        "It depends on the colour of your skin."

        I'm not quite sure what you mean, but there's a hint that you might have been taken in by the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation's coverage. The facts do show more black deaths on a per capita basis, but nothing like BBC viewers are led to believe. If a white individual is shot there's no coverage to speak of unless there's a graphic video or some ultra-dramatic back story.

        https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

        Given the Beeb's obsession with equality, I'm surprised they're not demanding that the US police shoot more women.

        1. Afernie

          Re: Is private property worth more than a human life?

          Someone's clicked the wrong bookmark again. Breitbart starts with a B.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is private property worth more than a human life?

          I love it when people quote statistics.

          2010 Census

          White 196,817,552

          Black or African American 37,685,848

          Your numbers 2017

          White 457

          Black 253

          So there are 5 times as many white people yet half the number of deaths. I would say that's quite significant myself as it should be a fifth all things being equal which they are not.

    5. DougS Silver badge

      Police also shoot dogs as a matter of course - even friendly ones wagging their tail - with no consequences, because "they felt threatened". Yet when a member of the public shoots a police dog, the police expect its life to be treated the same as real officer, and prosecutors seek the death penalty in states that have that for killing a cop.

      So yeah, I'm not sure what the deal is with their shyness about shooting down drones, but I expect the police will try to make it at least a life sentence for someone to shoot down one of THEIR drones...

    6. JohnFen Silver badge

      "Is private property worth more than a human life?"

      In the US? Very often, yes.

  3. lglethal Silver badge
    FAIL

    I call bollocks

    I call bullshit on the drones bringing drugs over the border angle. Considering the VAST quantities of drugs involved in a standard shipment into the US, the quantities of drugs available to be carried on a drone would NOT make that economical...

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: I call bollocks

      Not for pot, but it would be fine for heroin or cocaine. Some models of drone can carry up to 20 kg. They need to move more than that, but they can use more than one drone. If they used a number of drones in different areas miles apart it makes it pretty much impossible for all of it to be interdicted. Maybe or two are stopped, but if you get 90% across and the risk is reduced that still sounds like a win to me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I call bollocks

        Not for pot, but it would be fine for heroin or cocaine. Some models of drone can carry up to 20 kg.

        But given the relatively small numbers of drones, its a bit easy to follow and investigate. Far easier to use a mule to drive a car with it hidden inside. Whilst some cops are good at finding hidden contraband, that assume they stop the car - using a "fresh" car and a mule to drive it simply would not stand out, and for the drug barons wouldn't be a big deal if seized.

        And in barely inhabited borderlands, why mess about with an attention attracting drone when you can just walk it across?

        1. Claptrap314 Bronze badge

          Re: I call bollocks

          Drones are already in use for cross-border smuggling. Especially along the Rio Grande, which is a pretty good wall for most of where it is the border. (Except that narcos can shoot across it.)

      2. Colin Bain

        Re: I call bollocks

        Not to mention fentanyl and its cousins

    2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      Re: I call bollocks

      The "OMG teh border" is clearly political stunting.

      Smuggling stuff into prisons is much more of an issue, and is highly prevalent. More reliable than throwing a tennis ball over the wall anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I call bollocks

        If only they had a wall at the border, that would stop the drones.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: I call bollocks

        More reliable than throwing a tennis ball over the wall anyway.

        Just bribe a guard.... everyone else does.

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: I call bollocks

      Considering the VAST quantities of drugs involved in a standard shipment into the US, the quantities of drugs available to be carried on a drone would NOT make that economical...

      If only drones were scalable or even automatable...... "hang on lads, I've got a great idea".

    4. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: I call bollocks

      There's probably a significant amount of drugs being smuggled into the US but I suspect the estimates are seriously overblown. My guess is based on what happened after marijuana became legal on the West Coast. There were rosy predictions of massive amounts of money to be made by producers and tax authorities but what actually happened was that there was a crisis of overproduction in Oregon. In California its been a bit of a non-event -- those that smoke it continue to smoke it, those that don't do not.

      Life would be so much easier without ill-informed legislators.

  4. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

    I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

    The ISIS drones dropping hand-grenades? As if that's been bought over the counter. It's not even that hard to design and build one's own. The software is available in the torrents (I checked), parts available from numerous sources, locally or via the 'net, cash or credit. As if anyone keeps track of who's buying these parts. Lastly, you have ROS for running the beast. If you want spiffy, 3D-print the covers.

    For anyone that say's you can't, just check YouTube. One of the people I track has done all this on the cheap.

    1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

      Surely the issue there is more the hand grenade than the drone? I mean, if you've prevented someone from using a drone, but they've got a ready supply of grenades, that still presents a rather more pressing problem.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

        @MonkeyCee

        In normal, rational countries you would be absolutely correct. But this is America (Fuck yeah!), where people apparently require, at least according to the NSA and other second amendment freaks, the ability to easily possess hand grenades for, umm, self protection or something. Cant have weapons restricted, that would be against the constitution, so its time to restrict the drone access.

        Sort of raises the question, if you stick a weapon on a drone, and the drone becomes a weapon, is it then protected under the second amendment?

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

          "according to the NSA and other second amendment freaks, the ability to easily possess hand grenades for, umm, self protection or something."

          Surprisingly, this isn't true. Possessing a functional hand grenade without a license is very, very illegal in the US.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

            "Surprisingly, this isn't true. Possessing a functional hand grenade without a license is very, very illegal in the US."

            SO, the real question is, how high is the barrier to getting a licence? Easy or harder than a firearms licence?

      2. stiine Bronze badge
        Mushroom

        Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

        True, but recently, a CRATE of grenades fell off of an Air Force truck, so someone, somewhere has lots of grenades to practice.

        Personally, I'm not worried about grenades since you can kill more people at once with a rental van than you can with a grenade.

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

          Personally, I'm not worried about grenades since you can kill more people at once with a rental van than you can with a grenade.

          Sure, but it only takes say 3 or 4 seconds to lob a grenade - how many rental vans can you drive in say 30 seconds?

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

      Dropping a grenade sounds kind of impractical. You'd have to work out a mechanism for it to drop the grenade and pull the pin. Since the pin requires a bit of force to pull out (for obvious reasons) simply dropping it while leaving the pin tied to the drone won't do the job - that would just leave the grenade dangling.

      Seems easier to carry an IED with an impact trigger, and when it reaches the target cut the power. That way if someone spots it before it reaches the target and shoots it down, it still detonates and hurts someone unless they get it early enough.

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

        You'd have to work out a mechanism for it to drop the grenade and pull the pin.

        Surely this is simply an electromagnet and a decent solenoid, with a bit of wire on the end?

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

          I'd send the thing out with pulling the pin as the last task before takeoff. It's what we do with military planes/helicopters/.... Then it's simply a matter of removing the restraint on the grenade handle when you want to do a delivery. It's always easier to release a restraint than active pulling or any other action.

          Me? I wouldn't even bother with a mere hand grenade. With the right precautions, I can let my fingers do the walking at the local uni to get proper recipes. [As if I didn't have a ton of chemistry, chemical engineering and other engineering references already.]

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Pulling the pin before sending the drone off

            You better be DAMN sure it is secure, otherwise if it slips out of whatever is holding it during launch you lose.

            Hmmm, perhaps this is why they're talking about drones dropping grenades, they want the terrorists to blow themselves up!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

        A quick look on youtube will find you ways to add droping mechanisms to standard DJI drones.

        https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dji+release+mechanism

        A solenoid provides more than enough force to release the cargo cradle etc holding the nade to the airframe, you would probably have the spoon held against the drone body and pre-release the nades safety pin.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

          "standard DJI drones"

          People who are seriously into drones aren't using DJI ones (or, at least, they're not using unmodified DJI drones). Mostly, they build their own drones. As another commenter mentioned, it's pretty inexpensive to build your own, and doesn't take as much technical expertise as people often assume.

      3. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

        ..Dropping a grenade sounds kind of impractical.You'd have to work out a mechanism for it to drop the grenade and pull the pin....

        Nope. Easy.

        1 - Grenade strapped to base of drone with operating spring lever against body of drone.

        2 - Just before launch, pull pin out. Lever is now held by body of drone.

        3 - Fly over target. Operate release mechanism which cuts strap.

        4 - Grenade falls. Spring lever releases. 7 secs later it goes bang.

      4. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

        "You'd have to work out a mechanism for it to drop the grenade and pull the pin."

        There are off-the-shelf mechanisms that could drop a grenade. That's a solved problem. As for the pin, you'd pull that before attaching it to the drone. The timer doesn't start when you pull the pin, it starts when you release the "spoon".

        All that said, drones carrying grenades seems like a silly thing to be worried about, all things considered.

      5. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

        You'd have to work out a mechanism for it to drop the grenade and pull the pin.

        Easy. Mount the grenade such that the mount holds the spoon and on release, the spoon is released. The pin only comes out before launch. By the way, if the ends of the pin are bent to preclude them accidentally falling out. Straighten the pin, and they come out easily.

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

      For anyone that say's you can't, just check YouTube. One of the people I track has done all this on the cheap.

      Care to share who? Not so I can SWAT them, or because I don't believe you, but finding a source on youtube is easy, finding a good one isn't, and I'd be interested to learn more from a credible source.

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

        He loves it when new people drop by. He lives in a camper so being resource contrained isn't a surprise. A maker's maker.

        Twitter: @Glytch

        YouTube: youtube.com/glytch

        WWW: glytch.tech

    4. Gordon861

      Re: I would have done a full rant, but why waste the effort.

      https://hobbyking.com/en_us/quanum-rtr-bomb-system-1-6-scale-plug-n-drop.html

  5. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Range

    So, you want to be able to shoot down drones over US airspace if you have suspicions about the intention of the operator. Ok. And to reinforce your argument, you showed footage of a drone, operated by ISIS, dropping a hand-grenade? Ok, good.

    Where was that footage obtained? Was it in the US? How many ISIS cells are currently buying drones and hand-grenades in the US? How many times has ISIS undertaken any operation on the US mainland?

    What do you think the range of one of these drones actually is?

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Range

      Try swapping ISIS for "militia of good ol' boys", and I think you'll see the potential problem?

    2. Claptrap314 Bronze badge

      Re: Range

      With our open borders, the upper bound on the number of possible enemy cells is quite high. But I'm not worried about ISIS and their ilk. Their timeframe is too short. Once they arrive, they are going to try something within a year. Two tops.

      There is no defense against sleeper cells in an open society. I try not to think about the implications of this very much.

  6. Kevin Johnston

    Why not save time

    We all know where this is going for America... If it is not written in law you may do something (with the appropriate license) it is forbidden (except for the government, their employees and family and friends) (Oh and those nice people who gave us money to become Senators/Congressmen)

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Just declare open season on them for anyone with a shotgun.

    1. stiine Bronze badge
      Unhappy

      really?

      So, you've covered Texas and Kentucky....only 48 to go. Try again.

  8. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Just as well everyone's talking about drones...

    ...cos my model boats are also capable of being naughty.

    You could deliver a good briefcase full of cocaine to a shore from an off-shore boat with no difficulty. And a model sub with a shaped charge in front could pop a good-sized hole in a destroyer hull if it were parked in a harbour somewhere. Probably need several to sink it - but that's not much more expensive...

  9. JohnFen Silver badge

    Oopsie!

    "the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018"

    The federal government typically fetishises acronym selection to an absurd degree. How is it that they failed to notice the acronym of this is "PETA"? One would think they'd prefer to avoid any connection whatsoever to that organization.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Oopsie!

      How is it that they failed to notice the acronym of this is "PETA"?

      I came here to say that too!

  10. Geekhillbilly

    A Kentucky Judge called shooting down a spying drone legal and to my knowledge,nothing else was said.Which is good since I have a WW2 Carbine just waiting for the next one

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