North Dakota has become the first state to pass a law allowing state and local law enforcement to equip drones with "less than lethal" weapons including stun guns and tear gas. The bill’s original proponent wanted to ban police drones from carrying any kind of weapon, but that clause was removed from the law after a North Dakota Peace Officers Association rep requested the key change.
Rep. Rick Becker, who initially sponsored the bill, said last March he was worried about police using drones to fire remotely on suspects. "When you’re not on the ground, and you’re making decisions, you’re sort of separate," he said. North Dakota is a major center for drone research and development, the Christian Science Monitor reported, with its own FAA approved drone testing site. The North Dakota Air National Guard unit maintains several MQ-1 Predator drones as well.
The law requires that police and sheriff’s deputies must first obtain a search warrant from a judge before launching the flying cop-robots. Agencies must also keep detailed flight records correlated with flights, times and reasons. Police all over the country have used drones to conduct surveillance and monitor large-scale riots and protests. Rep. Brown said he plans to introduce a bill in 2017 specifically banning police drones from carrying any kind of weapons – non-lethal or not.