Law enforcement agencies in North Dakota will now be able to fly drones armed with everything from tasers to tear gas to rubber bullet firing projectiles thanks to a recently passed bill.
The bill originally started out as a bill to limit the law enforcement applications of drones by requiring police to get a search warrant before using a drone to acquire video evidence.
However, somehow a provision that made it legal for drones to carry less than lethal payloads made its way into the final version of the bill. According to a Daily Beast writeup on the subject:
The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones.
Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones.
Becker, the bill’s Republican sponsor, said he had to live with it.
“This is one I’m not in full agreement with. I wish it was any weapon,” he said at a hearing in March. “In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized. Period.”
It’s not clear if any agencies plan on acquiring drones, such as those shown in the demo video above, but they do now have the option.