By now, most of you have seen the headlines recently plastered on every social media site imaginable and printed by many mainstream media outlets: “North Dakota Becomes First State to Legalize Weaponized Drones.” Of course, it has raised concerns and, in some circles, outrage. After all, the idea of armed drones prowling our skies does seem in keeping with the motto “protect and serve” adopted by many law enforcement agencies. But, is that really what is happening?
If you have read any of the posts, clicked on any of the links or seen any of the news articles, it did not take long before you were “informed” that the North Dakota Legislature recently signed a bill which “prohibits lethal weapons…but allows less-than lethal weapons, including stun guns, bean bag rounds and tear gas.” By the time you finished reading this single statement, you were probably asking yourself “Why would police arm drones?” and “Why North Dakota of all places?” To be honest, I was thinking the same things. So, I did what any concerned American should do – I found out more and learned what was really happening.
Before we get into what the new legislation actually addresses, let’s start by discussing why any of this would be taking place in North Dakota. Believe it or not, North Dakota is at the very center of drone development which, if you think about it, makes sense. There is lots of wide open, relatively flat rural areas perfect for testing new designs or teaching new pilots without worrying about undo attention or unforeseen accidents. According to a 2013 article in Popular Science, North Dakota plans to be the “Drone Capital of America.” The University of North Dakota is home to The Center for UAS Research, Education and Training and offers degrees in Drone Operation; a local Air National Guard unit was one of the first to ground its F-16s in favor of MQ-1 Predators and in 2013 the FAA approved North Dakota as one of 6 states selected to develop drone test sites. So, I guess it does make sense that North Dakota would achieve another “first” in drone operations – but arming police drones? Has it really come to that?
Actually, no – North Dakota did not authorize the arming of drones. The bill in question, House Bill 1328, did not specifically authorize the arming of drones with ANY weapons; what it did do was specifically PROHIBIT the arming of any drone with lethal weapons. Only one single line deals with the arming of drones and it states “A law enforcement agency may not authorize the use of, including granting a permit to use, an unmanned aerial vehicle armed with any lethal weapons.” There is no language which authorizes the use of any weapons or allows law enforcement the ability to endanger any citizen’s rights or safety. In fact, the majority of the Bill deals with further restricting UAV use, especially in criminal investigations. There are requirements that search warrants be obtained prior to using a UAV and specific information which must be addressed in the application for that warrant. There are record keeping requirements for UAVs and limitations on what information may be retained and for how long.
I am no more comfortable with the idea of armed drones patrolling America’s skies than many of you are. As it stands, there are no police departments in North Dakota, or any other US state that I am aware of, looking to arm drones. Unlike the majority of the media who have reported on this story, I do not see this as an attempt to arm drones but a proactive attempt to prevent that from happening in the future. But do not take my word for it, read N.D. House Bill 1328 for yourself and draw your own conclusion.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.