This past week. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Rep. Mark Rogers (R-Ala.) sent a letter to Acting Secretary Chad Wolf warning DHS that a plan empowering TSA air marshals to neutralize drones over airports overreaches the agency’s congressional authority.
Graves and Rogers are the top Republicans on the Democrat-controlled Transportation and Infrastructure and Homeland Security committees respectively. The letter has no legal force since it has not been approved by the full committees.
“While we share the goal of ensuring that our nation’s airports are not disrupted by negligent or nefarious UAS operations, DHS does not have the authority or the experience necessary to operate [counter-drone] equipment in the manner proposed,” the letter stated.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 gave DHS narrow authority to deploy counter-drone tech against drones threatening a covered facility. However, Graves and Rogers said that authorization doesn’t apply to airports.
“If Congress had wanted to provide specific C-UAS authority to TSA it would have done so in FAARA.”
Graves and Rogers questioned the ability of the TSA – an agency frequently criticized for poor employee training – to competently handle counter-drone operations.
“Beyond the clear lack of congressional intent to authorize the TSA … to carry out this kind of C-UAS activity, DHS’s experience in operating C-UAS equipment, particularly within complicated airspace with civilian air traffic over-populated areas [is] sorely lacking [sic].”
“Further, DHS’s selection of [air marshals] to carry out C-UAS activities is particularly troubling, given [their] lack of such authority anywhere else in law and their complete absence of any experience in such matters.”
Industry leaders worry legal wrangling between government branches won’t address the real need for immediate airport security.
“Next week marks the busiest travel week of the year, and the one-year anniversary of the drone crisis that shuttered Gatwick airport is fast approaching next month, yet we’ve seen little action from the FAA or Congress to expand legislation or give authorities to airports and state and local law enforcement for mitigating dangerous, malicious or careless drones at airports,” Fortem Technologies CEO Timothy Bean said.
“This is far more dangerous than what [Graves and Rogers] are warning against. We have the technology to safely prevent these incidents. Action must be taken now, or else history may very well repeat itself with another incident like Gatwick this holiday season.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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