Future Tense

North Dakota Police Drones Can Be Weaponized If They’re Not Lethal. Wait, What?

A drone over Ain al-Arab, Syria in 2014 that you could probably call “more than lethal.” 

Photo by Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

A bill passed by North Dakota’s legislative assembly that was meant to require warrants for drone searches evolved into something entirely different, thanks to an amendment from a lobbyist.

The Daily Beast reports that House Bill 1328, sponsored by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, aimed to forbid all weapons on police drones. But Bruce Burkett from the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association amended the bill to prohibit only lethal weapons, leaving the door open for “less than lethal” weapons like Tasers, pepper spray, and rubber bullets. (Let’s not even get into the fact that “less than lethal” weapons actually have killed people.)

As the Verge points out, North Dakota is one of six Federal Aviation Administration pilot programs for trying out commercial drone use in civilian airspace, and drones are allowed to fly at up to 1,200 feet in the state instead of the usual 400-foot limit.

Becker told the Daily Beast of the amendment, “This is one I’m not in full agreement with. I wish it was any weapon. … In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized. Period.”