WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee approved Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s Protecting the Border from Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act — bipartisan legislation that secures the border by combatting smugglers’ use of drones along Arizona’s border. Sinema introduced the bipartisan legislation with Republican Senator James Lankford (Okla.).
“Ensuring a unified federal strategy to combat unauthorized drones along Arizona’s border will better secure the border by helping to stop illegal smugglers’ use of drones to traffic drugs and evade law enforcement,” said Sinema, chair of the Senate Border Management Subcommittee.
The bipartisan Protecting the Border from Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act requires the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Defense, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, to develop an interagency strategy to combat unauthorized drones along the border. This strategy includes assessments of the federal government’s counter-unmanned aircraft system capabilities, privacy protections, intelligence tools, training programs, resources, and research efforts along the border. The bill also includes important provisions to increase transparency regarding drone-related threats along the border, encourage more robust interagency research and development efforts, and ensure the federal government protects the privacy and civil liberties of Arizonans lawfully operating drones.
Although most drone operators are hobbyists, along the border, cartels can use the same technology to transport drugs. Drones can also be used to surveil the Border Patrol to avoid detection when illegally crossing the border.
Sinema also helped introduce the bipartisan Safeguarding the Homeland from the Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act, which reauthorizes the federal government’s authority to interdict drones that pose an immediate, credible threat to Arizonans’ safety or our nation’s security and provides new tools to protect airports, critical infrastructure, and other key locations from drone-enabled attacks and surveillance.
In November 2021, Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents caught a drone smuggling 6.5 pounds of heroin across the border; according to reporting, it was the third drone captured smuggling drugs last year in Yuma. The need for interagency counter-drone coordination along the border was also highlighted by a recent incident where, according to news reports, the Border Patrol encountered a highly-modified drone within the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s restricted airspace near Tucson.