This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
Weaponized drones represent a future for policing — and could be a necessary option in moments when lives are at stake, as some lawmakers in Connecticut see it. A bill making its way through the state legislature would be the first in the US to explicitly allow police to add lethal weapons to drones.
According to nbcnews.com, the bill moved overwhelmingly out of the Judiciary Committee and must pass the state’s House and Senate before the session ends in early. Previous legislation on the topic failed to gain traction in recent years. Civil liberties groups are urging caution on the measure, citing concerns over privacy and when force would be used.
Regardless, the growing prominence of drone technology means ground rules need to be in place sooner rather than later for whether they can be weaponized and to what extent, said state Sen. John Kissel, a Republican co-chair of the Judiciary Committee who supports weaponizing drones. Lawmakers are continuing to discuss the bill. “We have to be able to fight fire with fire,” Kissel said.
Kissel said he can imagine a range of scenarios that would allow the high-tech gadgets to be weaponized. They include: dismantling a bomb placed in an area where people cannot reach; shooting down another armed drone; shooting out a tire in a high-speed car chase; or using a stun gun on a suspect.
Any law “would be extremely narrowly tailored,” Kissel said, “and we want there to be really rigorous training because of the potential for the lethal force under certain circumstances.”
At least 347 police and fire departments in 43 states in the US are using drones, including for search and rescue operations, crime scene photography, and surveillance, according to a study by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone. But researchers say no department currently utilizes weaponized drones, including in Connecticut, where about three police forces have drone technology.
Only one state in the country — North Dakota — bans the specific use of lethal weapons on drones but created a loophole that allows for police departments to employ non-lethal weapons such as Tasers, tear gas or rubber bullets on the devices.