North Dakota: Armed police drones and high-altitude, nighttime tests

North Dakota: Armed police drones and high-altitude, nighttime tests

In what appears to be a case of unintended consequences, a recently enacted North Dakota law means police in that state can now arm unmanned aerial vehicles with non-lethal weapons.

As originally drafted, HB 1328 prohibited all weapons on drones, but an amendment changed the language so that only lethal weapons were banned, allowing rubber bullets, tasers and pepper spray, according to a report in the Daily Beast. The bill’s original intent was to require a search warrant from a judge in order for police to use a drone to search for criminal evidence.  

Drone use has been hotly debated across the state, which is home to one of the original six test sites approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for UAV research. Police quoted by the Daily Beast opposed the legislation, as did many businesses see the technology as key to local economic development.  HB 1328 was signed into law in April.

Meanwhile, the FAA expanded testing capabilities for drones in North Dakota. UAVs can now be flown at height of up to 1,200 feet and are permitted to fly at night. Other test sites across the county have an altitude limit of 200 feet  and can only be flown during the day. The higher altitude can help with sensors used by scientists on drones for wildfire detection, agricultural mapping and search and rescue missions.

After receiving the FAA approval, the University of North Dakota started testing night flights of the Draganflyer X4ES, according to an AP report.

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.


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