As US regulators grapple with the safety, privacy and national security concerns posed by a boom in the use of recreational drones, lawmakers worried about their use for malicious ends have advanced legislation aimed at letting Defense Department and Energy Department facilities defend themselves against them.

Two provisions contained in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act would extend broad new authorities to the agencies to stop unmanned aerial vehicles deemed a threat to their facilities dedicated to nuclear power and weaponry. The authorities would dovetail with DoE and DoD’s early efforts to develop technology that would discern small drones from birds and take them out.

“That is a very aggressive approach, and one we have yet to see in federal regulations,” energy and infrastructure attorney Roland Backhaus, with the firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, said of the bill.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) small enough to elude radar could be used “by criminals and terrorists” to attack or spy on “critical government and industrial facilities,” according to a Jan. 27 Congressional Research Service report. “Somewhat larger UAS could be used to carry out terrorist attacks by serving as platforms to deliver explosives or chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons,” said the report, by aviation policy specialist Bart Elias.

DoE has 10 active sites across the country that handle the US arsenal of nuclear weapons and material, while DoD controls nuclear missile fields, silos, underground storage and maintenance, as well as nuclear reactors for training and research.

“The chairman is interested in protecting these facilities. It would be a bad day if something happened,” said a Congressional staffer.

A bad day indeed. This leads one to assume that these sites are secure from helicopter and light plane incursions, never mind the details. Should be a sweet contract or two for the winning interdiction providers.



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