The Department of Justice in the past fiscal year deployed counter-drone capabilities to dozens of events across the U.S., leading to arrests and charges against drone operators engaged in criminal activity, the department said on Tuesday.
Between Oct. 1, 2019 and Sept. 30, 2020, counter unmanned aircraft systems (CUAS) were deployed to events such as Super Bowl LIV in Miami, the 2019 World Series in Washington, D.C., and Houston, the 2020 Rose Bowl near Los Angeles, and mass gatherings such as A Capitol Fourth in Washington and New York City’s New Year’s celebration, the department said.
The DoJ is forecasting that it expects to increases its CUAS enforcement activity to increase due to continued carless and criminal uses of drones.
“Drones are an amazing technology that offer great commercial promise, but they also present a serious challenge to ensuring public safety,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement. “As events return during and after this global pandemic, we will be out in force where needed, collaborating with our partners from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, to protect the public from unsafe, careless, or malicious drone operators.”
The FBI uses CUAS systems at certain high-profile events and mass gatherings for which flight restrictions are typically for protective purposes. Violating the restrictions can result in criminal charges.
During fiscal year 2020, the FBI seized about a dozen drones that were violating flight restrictions at various events.
The DoJ announcement says that ahead of the Super Bowl in February, federal prosecutors charged two drone operators with flying small UAS in national defense airspace. In September, two people were charged with flying a drone within restricted airspace during protests in Portland, Ore.
The DoJ also says that in September Jason Muzzicato, who used an unregistered drone to drop improvised explosive devices in Southeast Pennsylvania, was sentenced to five years in prison. It also says that in October 2019 Eric Lee Brown was sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to use a drone to deliver marijuana to a state prison in Georgia. And, in March 2020, two men were charged in New Jersey for conspiring to smuggle contraband into a federal prison using drones.
In publicizing the use of CUAS systems and enforcement actions, the DoJ says it is trying to “deter careless and criminal UAS operators.”