Drone enthusiasts take heed: If you don’t want to see your precious drone blasted into a million pieces, keep clear of US military installations.
The Pentagon has approved a new policy that authorises military bases to shoot down private and commercial drones encroaching on its airspace.
First to report the news, the Military Times says the policy was sent out to US armed services in July. The full contents of the policy remain classified. The Pentagon sent the services guidance on how to communicate its new rules to local communities on Friday.
The policy was announced by Pentagon spokesperson Navy Cpt Jeff Davis during a press gaggle this morning. Davis told reporters that US military bases “retain the right of self-defence when it comes to UAVS or drones operating over [them]”. The new policy allows the military to track, disable and destroy drones, he said. The drones could also be seized or impounded.
The Military Times highlighted one issue bound to arise from the new policy, noting that it isn’t always clear which airspace belongs to the Defence Department.
The Air Force, for example, maintains its arsenal Minuteman III nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles in 150 underground silos in vast fields around Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. But the land is only leased from commercial and private farmers who use the rest of the area for crops or livestock. Those farmers sometimes find it easier to launch a drone to check on their cows or agriculture than to cover the miles by foot or truck.
It was not clear, the Military Times said, whether the policy had affected airspace access around the silos or at other bases — again, the details remain classified. However, Davis told reporters that the changes had been vetted by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The military’s engagement with drones “will depend upon the specific circumstances,” he said.
The FAA restricted private and commercial drone activity near 133 US military installations earlier this year. (There’s an interactive map online if you’re curious.) Violators could face stiff fines or gaol time — so no matter how much you may want to see the military blow a buzzing drone out of the sky, it’s best not to tempt fate.