Armed drones for us police officers

Armed drones for us police officers

Image: lima pix.0

A bill in connecticut criminalizes the weaponization of drones, but has opened the door to an upgrade in security forces

A new law in the U.S. State of connecticut regulates the use of drones in an interesting way. It was noted that even mini-drones can not only serve as weapons themselves to attack people, vehicles or aircraft with them, but that they can also be armed. This was started last year by the islamic state (IS equips drones with explosive devices) and from the beginning of this year drones were also rigged with explosives and bombs to target mainly vehicles in areas beyond its controlled territory (mini-drones spread fear). Since then, demand for effective anti-drone weapons has increased among militaries, and iraqi forces have begun arming mini-drones in their turn (wettrusten: iraqi forces "drones" in mosul back).

So far, americans – and others in the west – have watched the drone war rather bored, as it has taken place far away in afghanistan, pakistan, somalia, syria, libya, iraq or yemen. Although many civilian casualties have been reported for years, the attacks with combat robots have taken place in areas where human lives are of little value and no state power cares about them. And they were crude drones, while people at home were buying masses of what at first sight seemed harmless mini-drones, and the only danger was that they might be used carelessly or that the cameras might be used to make further breaches in privacy or spy out something. It could have been known for a long time, but only since the islamic state demonstrated how easy it is to convert drones, which can be bought anywhere, into killing machines, has the fear also begun to grow that drone warfare is now moving into the western states, which supposedly have to defend themselves in the hindu kush or in the middle east.

In the bill, which has not yet been passed, not only do the dangers come up, which even with bans cannot be banished any more than attacks by other means, but also the temptation to use armed drones to fight crime, which will open the floodgates for violence from afar even further. No U.S. State yet allows drones to be rigged with weapons; only north dakota allows police to equip drones with non-lethal or less-lethal weapons such as taser stun guns.

The bill has already been waved through by a rough majority of the connecticut house of representatives judiciary committee. The vice-chairman of the committee, john kissel, a republican congressman, tries to deflect as usual. Allowing police to use armed drones would only be in exceptional circumstances anyway, such as in the case of a spree killer or a kidnapping case where the drone is used to try to hit the vehicle’s tire. But the ACLU warns that the law would set a precedent that would open the floodgates – in the U.S., of all places, where deadly force is already widely used by law enforcement. It should also be clear to everyone that if the police arm drones, criminals will do the same. The spiral of rebellion exists not only militarily, but also internally.

The draft law wants to respond to the danger posed by mini-drones with prohibitions and the threat of punishment. For example, anyone who uses the drone for voyeuristic purposes or uses it to deliver prohibited items such as weapons or drugs to a penal institution or a prisoner will be prosecuted, but also anyone who recklessly steers a drone into an aircraft or vehicle and risks injuring a human being in the process. What is striking is that while drones are the primary thought, there is already further thinking going on, after all, autonomous vehicles are being tested right now, which would also love to be used for similar purposes if they were hacked or reprogrammed accordingly. Remote-controlled or programmed vehicles then love to be used without a driver in crowds or against specific targets, so that the dangers threaten not only from the air, but also on the ground or in the water.

Prohibited under the bill, again with the exception of legal use by law enforcement, is using a program or technology such as a drone – so it could be anything else, "with which a person, even if not physically present, can release trangas or a similar agent or operate a remote-controlled weapon". Punishment for driving an unmanned vehicle equipped with lethal or non-lethal weapons alone shall be imprisonment from one to ten years and a fine up to 10.000 US dollars.

However, police officers can control drones equipped with tran gas or other agent or lethal weapon as part of their mission. Surprisingly, the police officer standards and training council will only regulate the conditions under which police officers can use drones to gather information. Although it is intended to regulate the use of weapons in unmanned vehicles and aircraft, it does not appear to do so yet. Actually, the FAA also still requires that drones can only be flown when they are within sight of the pilot.

Even if this law is not passed, the governor, a democrat, declares that he does not know yet if he will sign it, the importation of armed drones is on the horizon among the security forces, but also in the criminal or terrorist milieu of the western countries.