A bipartisan group of senators in the US Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has introduced legislation to expand the federal government’s powers to act against drones deemed threatening to the public.

The bill, called the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018, empowers the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to protect properties and assets when the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) pose an unacceptable risk to public safety and security, if requested by a state’s governor or attorney general.

The legislation would grant the departments authority to track and monitor drones without permission from their operators, as well as to seize, confiscate or destroy them, if necessary. Seized UAVs would be subject to forfeiture under the proposed law.

The introduction of the bill on May 14 follows a request from the Trump administration to loosen legal prohibitions on intercepting aircraft. Such restrictions have created headaches for the federal government as the numbers of drones flying over mass gatherings, like sporting events and concerts, has grown rapidly.

“The threats posed by malicious unmanned aircraft are too great to ignore,” committee chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), who co-sponsored the legislation, said in a statement Tuesday. “It is not enough to just tell drone operators not to fly in certain high-risk areas; we must give federal law enforcement the authority to act if necessary.”

The legislation would require DHS to conduct several studies to assess emerging threats drones may pose to public or private critical infrastructure, including airports. The research will also investigate how drones could potentially be used to inflict violence and intimidate people.

“Advances in technology improve the lives of all Americans, but those advances can also create new ways for terrorists and other bad actors to attack our country,” ranking member Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), another of the bills co-sponsors, said. “This bill is about ensuring that we can quickly and responsibly respond to those emerging threats and keep communities and families around the country safe.”

The bill contains a sunset provision, meaning Congress will have to re-evaluate it after five years from the date of its enactment. The House, meanwhile, is working with the White House on its own version of the bill.

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@Informa.com