February 1, 2022

Cassidy, Grassley, Kelly Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Criminalize Dangerous Drone Activity

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) Bill introduced the Drone Act of 2022. The bipartisan bill seeks to criminalize dangerous drone activity – including by drug and human traffickers who have embraced drone technology to facilitate their operations. Alarmingly, criminals have started attaching weapons to drones, posing significant national security and public safety concerns.

“From the southern border to cities across the country, criminals are using drones to smuggle drugs, weapons and commit crimes that put Americans at risk,” said Dr. Cassidy. “We must confront this new threat.”

An official at the Federal Correctional Complex, Oakdale confirmed numerous cell phones and other contraband have been drone dropped onto the FCC Oakdale complex throughout the last six months. 

“As drone technology advances and drone usage becomes more widespread, it’s imperative that we modernize the law to deter criminal activity. Drones offer great potential for revolutionizing how we do business in this country, and a lot of work went into making sure this bill wouldn’t stifle all the positive aspects of drone innovation. A lot of work also went into making sure this bill gives law enforcement the tools it needs to go after terrorists and drug cartels that use drones to advance their criminal enterprises. Moving forward, I’ll continue working with my colleagues to ensure drone laws strike the right balance – allowing this technology to improve efficiency for businesses, law enforcement, military operations and recreation while curbing what should be illegal activity,” Grassley said.

“From my years serving in the Navy, I know firsthand the power drone technology offers. In the wrong hands, it can pose security risks, which is why Senator Grassley and I are introducing the Drone Act to stop the illegal use of drones, like for drug trafficking, and to increase penalties for the most serious crimes,” said Kelly. “It’s critical that we give law enforcement the tools to accomplish its mission of keeping our communities safe and our borders secure against criminal organizations.”

The Drone Act of 2022 would ensure drug traffickers and terrorists cannot use drones to carry out violent attacks. In recent years, a would-be al Qaeda operative, Rezwan Ferdus, pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to damage federal buildings, including developing a high-speed drone that could attack the Pentagon with grenades. International drug traffickers are now using drones to spy on U.S. law enforcement at the southern border, smuggle drugs into the country and even drop bombs on competing drug organizations. Simply put, terrorists and drug dealers should not have their own air forces, and the Drone Act of 2022 would explicitly criminalize all of this activity.

Currently, federal law prohibits certain uses for drones, but those provisions are limited and fail to address a wide range of illicit activity. The Drone Act of 2022 will expand the list of criminal offenses and make them punishable with a $250,000 fine or a prison sentence. Among others, the additional criminal offenses include:

  • Attaching a firearm, explosive or other dangerous weapon to a drone
  • Using a drone to cause serious bodily injury or death to a person, or causing damage to property
  • Interfering with a law-enforcement activity
  • Transporting contraband with a drone
  • Crossing the U.S. border with a drone

Similar proposals have been considered and supported by both the previous and current administrations. Cassidy, Grassley, and Kelly’s bill modifies these previous proposals to reflect feedback from industry leaders and other key stakeholders while focusing the stiffest penalties on the most dangerous uses of drones.