FAA Public Directive – Don’t Weaponize Drones
With of consumer drones costs having reduced considerably in the past few years some owners some videos showing people outfitting their unmanned vehicles with weapons have surfaced recently, triggering the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) action- reminding everyone that, they can’t equip a drone with weapons. The FAA is warning drone users not to equip their devices with dangerous weapons — for the safety of the public.
The agency suggested that people are attaching “guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items” to their drones, and urged others not to do the same. A press release from the FAA on Thursday stated, “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 published notice declares that drones and weapons are “A Dangerous Mix.”
The agency helpfully reminds everyone in the notice that operating a drone that’s wielding a dangerous weapon is a violation of Section 363 of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, which can result in fines of up to $25,000 for each violation — unless, the drone operator receives ‘specific authorization from the Administrator of the FAA to conduct the operation’. Other state and federal laws restricting the use of weapons could also apply to these dangerous drone flights, the FAA adds.
Just recently, a company called ThrowFlame made headlines with its $1,500 “TF-19 Wasp” flamethrower attachment for drones. It works with most unmanned aircraft with a payload capacity of five pounds or more. Most of that weight is fuel — one gallon allows 100 seconds of burning time. The TF-19 Wasp can bathe targets up to 25 feet away in fire. ThrowFlame insists this isn’t a weapon.
“Operators should keep in mind that federal regulations and statutes that generally govern drone operations still apply,” officials said. The FAA has issued an official warning to the Ohio-based company. ThrowFlame insists that flamethrowers are regulated as tools in the US, so they can’t be weapons.
This is certainly more of a gray area than some past drone experiments. In 2015, the FAA investigated an online video that showed a drone firing a handgun. Following the investigation, the agency issued a warning but decided against fines.
ThrowFlame, which also sells handheld flamethrowers, seems defiant in the face of potential fines. The TF-19 Wasp remains for sale on the company’s site, and there are plenty of videos demonstrating its use. The FAA might call that “evidence.” This disagreement could go to the courts.
People in the US have been strapping weapons to their commercial drones since the technology took off a few years ago. There’s been a legal tug-of-war around weapon less drones for the last few years as well. This time around the FAA has included boomer meme-style graphics in their official notice.
Details about the FAA’s safety tips and regulations for drones can be accessed here.
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