Pentagon gives military bases permission to shoot down stray drones

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Why it matters to you

Drone owners need to check before flying — getting too close to a military base now means a destroyed drone.

Fly a drone too close to a military base, and that quadcopter could wind up shot down from the sky. The Pentagon recently approved a policy that allows the U.S. military to take action against hobbyist as well as professional drones near 133 military installations across the country. The Pentagon announced the expanded drone restrictions on Monday, August 7.

While under a regulation issued earlier this year, flying over those 133 restricted military areas could already land you in jail, the military now has the right to also take that drone out of the sky. According to Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, the new policy allows the military to track, disable, impound, and destroy drones entering the restricted areas.

The policy was sent to the military services last month and while the full policy is still classified, several details were shared Monday so drone owners know what could be in store if they violate the flight restrictions. The policy allows military bases to “retain the right of self-defense,” Davis said. The policy applies to consumer drones as well as to professionals flying the UAVs.

According to Davis, the Federal Aviation Administration, along with other agencies, was involved in developing the policy. Whether the drone is shot down or disabled and impounded depends on the circumstances, he said.

Before flying, the FAA recommends pilots take a look at the UAS data map, which along with including those restricted areas, maps out other areas where flight is illegal, including airports. Drone flight is also restricted over sporting events and around wildfires. The FAA may also issue temporary restrictions, which are separately mapped online. Under those restrictions, Washington, D.C. is the most restricted area in the country, according to the FAA.

While airports and military bases present more obvious security concerns, exactly where drones can fly has long been debated. A bill in Oklahoma proposes to allow property owners to shoot down drones flying over private property. Several tech companies have developed safer ways to disable unwanted drones, including software that hacks drones and returns them to their pilots and a rather ominous-looking “gun” that disrupts the signal, and thereby sends the drone to the ground.