Pentagon says it has released guidelines for shooting down civilian drones

The DJI Spark drone with attached camera, pictured, is one of many small civilian drones available for well under $500. Photo courtesy of DJI

Aug. 7 (UPI) — The Department of Defense has approved a policy that allows military bases to shoot down unauthorized drones in their airspace, according to the Pentagon.

A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed the policy’s existence to UPI but offered no further comment because it is classified. The policy was distributed in the last several weeks in response to growing concern among military commanders.

“The new guidance does afford the ability to take action to stop these threats and that includes disabling, destroying and tracking,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davistold reporters this morning.

Davis told reporters the policy had been sent out to military installations in July and covered the rules of engagement concerning private drones.

He added that the policy had been coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies, and what measures would be taken to stop drones in restricted airspace “will depend upon the specific circumstances.”

Complicating the issue is what may constitute a threat and who owns what airspace in regard to military leases. Many military installations are surrounded by farmland, towns and cities and have property leased from private owners.

Senior leaders in the Pentagon have voiced concerns over the potential threat of private drones in military airspace, particularly around sensitive sites like those involving nuclear weapons.

U.S. nuclear missile silos surrounding Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota are intermixed with farmland and cattle ranches whose owners often use drones to track crops and herds with few restrictions.

Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. John Hyten last March complained about the slow pace of providing drone countermeasures to nuclear sites in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

“We’re going too slow,” Hyten said in response to questions regarding the policy.

“We have to get the right policies and authorities out there so our defenders know exactly what to do, and then we have to give them material solutions to allow them to react when they see a threat and identify that there is a threat so they do the right things.”

Anti-drone countermeasures can range from low-tech options like water cannons and shotguns to sophisticated electronic warfare systems designed to disable drone guidance and power systems, obviating the need for conventional anti-aircraft guns and missiles with their attendant risks to surrounding areas.

Whether the new policy includes conventional weapons is not known due to the classified nature of the guidelines. Legal issues have long been a concern when it comes to countering drones despite legal clarifications in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act last year.

Hyten said during his testimony that despite legal steps taken, “I look out at the number of lawyers involved in this discussion and, well, it’s significant.”


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