The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration probably isn’t a fan of the drone flamethrower attachment that went viral last month.
It seems it was the newfound attention to this device, which allegedly allows a drone to spit fire 7.6 metres, that inspired the agency to remind Americans that operating a drone with a dangerous weapon attached is illegal.
On Friday, the FAA released a notice that called weapons and drones “a dangerous mix.”
“Perhaps you’ve seen online photos and videos of drones with attached guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers and other dangerous items,” the warning reads. “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 FAA did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for comment on what specifically inspired the agency to issue the warning last week.
Safety Alert: The #FAA warns against attaching weapons to #drones. Operating a drone with a weapon attached is not only dangerous, it is illegal and violators could face significant civil penalties????. #FlySafe https://t.co/cX82SAS3iD pic.twitter.com/APwEzSrIBe
— The FAA (@FAANews) August 22, 2019
Putting a flamethrower, or any “dangerous weapon” on a drone and flying the device violates Section 363 of the U.S. 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, and could lead to penalties of $US25,000 ($36,907), according to the FAA.
Editor's Note: In Australia, it is illegal to own or import any kind of flamethrower, so please don't go getting any ideas.
If a drone operator really needs to operate a weaponised drone — perhaps for the purpose of burning trash off of high-voltage wires — then they can try to obtain a “specific authorisation from the Administrator of the FAA to conduct the operation.”
Under U.S. law, a “dangerous weapon” is something “that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2½ inches in length.”
So it seems that, technically, you could still put a 2¼-inch knife on a drone. The FAA did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for comment on whether it was legal to fly a drone with a pocket knife strapped on to it.