49 USC 44802 Prohibits Weapons on Drones

By | February 4, 2021

Thinking of attaching a gun, fireworks, a flamethrower, or incendiary devices to your drone? There are some laws regulating this.

In 2015, a troubled teen in Connecticut added a gun to a drone and later a flamethrower to cook a turkey for the holidays.

And you guessed it, laws were created to counter this. Section 363 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 created the following law:

(a) In General.–Unless authorized by the Administrator, a person may not operate an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system that is equipped or armed with a dangerous weapon.
(b) Dangerous Weapon Defined.–In this section, the term “dangerous weapon” has the meaning given that term in section 930(g)(2) of title
18, United States Code.
(c) Penalty.–A person who violates this section is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $25,000 for each violation.

Dangerous Weapon as defined in 18 USC 930(g)(2) says:

(2) The term “dangerous weapon” means a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2½ inches in length.

These laws create the unfortunate situation where legitimate uses of drones are captured such as:

  • Drones dropping bombs for avalanche control
  • Flamethrowers on drones used to burn debris or vegetation in hard to get to areas (power lines, rocky embankments, cliffs, etc.)
  • Incendiary devices to assist with controlled burning of vegetation.

The good news is the FAA can issue authorizations to allow a dangerous weapon to be attached.

But there are other laws. Here are just some…..

If there are hazardous materials, you’ll need an exemption from 107.36. There are DOT Hazmat laws that might apply which will require more approvals.  Some states have their own similar laws prohibiting weapons on drones such as Florida.