File photo – An airplane flies over a drone during the Polar Bear Plunge on Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York Jan. 1, 2015. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)
If you're thinking about adding a flamethrower or gun to your drone for an epic end-of-summer blowout party, think again. The Federal Aviation Administration wants you to know that it's illegal to weaponize a drone.
"Perhaps you've seen online photos and videos of drones with attached guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items. Do not consider attaching any items such as these to a drone because operating a drone with such an item may result in significant harm to a person and to your bank account," the FAA said in a warning last week.
Under US law, it's illegal for non-military personnel to fly an aircraft that's equipped with a weapon, and the same rule applies to consumer drones, the regulator said. Only an administrator with the FAA can sanction a weaponized drone.
"Operators are subject to civil penalties up to $25,000 for each violation," the FAA added. What's considered a dangerous weapon includes anything that is "readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury."
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The regulator issued the warning as a Cleveland, Ohio, company called Throwflame has been selling a flamethrower-equipped drone to US customers. Contrary to the FAA's warning, the company claims the product is legal in the US, although it's up to the buyer to determine if the attached flamethrower violates any state or local laws.
Although consumer drones can certainly be fun, they can also be used for nefarious purposes. Last year, attackers reportedly tried to assassinate the President of Venezuela by using two DJI drones packed with explosives.
The potential for drone-powered bombings prompted the FAA to recently begin requiring all drones to display mini-license plates outside the craft. Previously, the FAA allowed the drone's ID information to be fitted inside the battery compartment, but law enforcement expressed concerns a bomb could be secretly rigged inside the same compartment.