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Can U.S. authorities shoot down private drones?

Answer: Not yet, but they should be able to soon.

Included among other provisions in the FAA Reauthorization Act that the U.S. Senate just passed were those that allow government authorities to take immediate action against privately owned drones under certain circumstances.

Those circumstances are rather broad — too broad, critics have argued — and would give authorities the power to immediately remove a privately owned drone that they deem a threat by any means necessary. They wouldn’t even need a warrant to do so, meaning the drone could be shot down on sight.

These provisions also have privacy advocates concerned, particularly the part about not needing a warrant. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center have come out in opposition to the bill, citing a lack of even basic privacy safeguards. However, the bill is now expected to be signed into law by the president.

Kate is a senior copy editor in Northern California. She holds a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in professional writing from the University of California, Davis.