UAS, as considered in this bill, refers to the definition of UAS used in section 331 of the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 which defines UAS as the unmanned aircraft and its associated components (such as the communications link and control systems) necessary of flight.
While older radio-controlled aircraft and vehicles have posed a risk as potential weapons for many years, the technology was difficult to learn, and it took time, skill, and patience to build and operate. These challenges imposed some limits on their broader use. Modern control technology has made commercial unmanned vehicles and aircraft far easier to operate.
With respect to UAS, since 2015, the increased availability of commercial drones has led to increases in sales and public acceptance. For example, according to a poll from Saint Leo University, 72% of adults support using drones for community policing. The FAA projects growth in annual UAS sales from $1.9 million in 2016 to $4.3 million by 2020.
The use of commercial UAS as weapons has already become an issue in other countries. In 2014, the Islamic State (IS) began using commercial drones to make propaganda films and later used drones as scouts. The IS has also fit explosive charges to UASs to make inexpensive guided missiles. Concerns have also been raised about domestic attacks using commercial UASs.