Drone with an orange light on the front, hovering over a barbed wire fence

Drones + weapons? FAA says that’s a No-No

The US government agency is reminding pilots not to attach dangerous items to their UAVs

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Before you attach a flamethrower or other weapon to a drone, the Federal Aviation Administration is reminding pilots that would be a big mistake.

A hand holding a small consumer droneAttaching weapons to drones, of any size, is not allowed per FAA rulesiStock

Flying a drone with a weapon on the device is a crime that carries a $25,000 penalty — for each violation. What's a weapon? Probably exactly what comes to mind, which would include, as per the FAA, "…guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items."

Further, a dangerous weapon may also include "..any item that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury," the agency added.

Drone with six rotors, flying in the sky with a camera hanging from its bodyThe FAA has had to warn pilots in the past of flying drones through natural disasters and interfering with rescue workers iStock

Drone crimes

It's not hard to fall on the wrong side of the FAA when it comes to flying a drone. To start, knowing where you can, and can't, fly can be complicated. (Flying basically anywhere in New York City, for example, is not allowed.)

But drones have also been put to use illegally, from flying contraband over prison walls to using these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to capturing footage during fires and other disasters, and interfering with rescue personnel.

Prisons have reported phones and tobacco illegally dropped across their walls by drones. And the FAA has even had to warn people during hurricanes. And even while these activities are not condoned, the FAA and other authorities have found it often difficult to find those who have used drones illegally, hoping people respond, accordingly, to their warnings.

alphabet wing drone delivery faaAlphabet's Wing has permission from the FAA to carry items in the sky, and deliver them to customers Wing

Drone deliveries

Not everything is a negative when it comes to drones. For every weekend flyer who decides to drop in on firefighters, there are drones that have helped find lost hikers, and drones that are now being used for deliveries of food to other kinds of packages.

UPS is looking to run a delivery network of drones across the United States, and is currently testing how that system would work. Alphabet's delivery service Wing just got the nod to start its drone delivery service this spring.

However, carrying books and groceries over the head of people on the ground is one thing. In terms of attaching dangerous weapons on a drone — and hovering over people — that's another story. The FAA made that clear, as well, along with its right to penalize anyone found violating that rule, which is clearly spelled out in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act. Plus, while a small UAV darting through a hurricane may be harder to pinpoint, one with a flamethrower attached may be an easier flying object for authorities to find — and fine.

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