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Not since Mike Judge’s future-dystopian comedy classic Idiocracy have we seen an infographic that shouts “hey knuckleheads!” as loudly as the FAA’s high-impact new PSA that implores drone owners not to equip their buzzy ‘bots with guns, bombs, flame throwers, or anything else that makes fire or goes boom.
In a funny-yet-serious attempt to remind hobbyists in the burgeoning drone world that airborne weapons aren’t, y’know, legal, the federal flying agency mutilated the aspirations of any would-be drone bombardiers in the private sector looking to turn their remote aircraft into miniature weapons of war.
“Operating a drone with a weapon attached is not only dangerous, it is illegal and violators could face significant civil penalties,” the agency warns above its eye-catching, X’d-out drone graphic:“Perhaps you’ve seen online photos and videos of drones with attached guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items,” FAA adds on its advisory page. “Do not consider attaching any items such as these to a drone because operating a drone with such an item may result in significant harm to a person and to your bank account.”
Under the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, federal law prescribes financial penalties for private drone operators caught affixing any “dangerous weapon” to a craft without first obtaining a permit. “Operators are subject to civil penalties up to $25,000 for each violation, unless the operator has received specific authorization from the Administrator of the FAA to conduct the operation,” the agency cautions.
What’s a “dangerous weapon?” The FAA’s advisory doesn’t ask us to overthink things here: it’s “any item that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury.” Of course, even as the government worries over managing the potential for violence on the rapidly-growing civilian drone frontier, it’s also innovating new ways to make militarized versions of the devices even more lethal, in the name of national defense.
But for those of us who aren’t on the bleeding edge of Defense Department drone R&D, we’ll heed the FAA’s advice and continue to satisfy our war-drone cravings the the good old-fashioned way: only on the screen, and armed only with a TV remote or game controller.