There’s been lots of talk about the legality of drones lately, especially when it comes to the FAA regulations commercial drone manufacturers are waiting for. But it turns out that’s not the only legal question in this area, regardless of whether they’re flown for commercial or private purposes. Now the question seems to be: what can we do about drones that might be flying over our homes or private land? The answer: sorry, but you can’t shoot them down.
It’s hardly surprising that pissed off citizens are resorting to shooting drones out of the sky like modern-day equivalent to skeet shooting. It happened just last week on the New Jersey Shore when a 32-year-old resident got fed up with a drone flying over his home, and riddled it with bullet holes, which did the trick. The owner says he was trying to get some aerial photos of a construction job on a friend’s home nearby. He heard gunshots, lost control of the drone, which crashed, and then called the cops.
The police questioned the shooter and confirmed that he had, indeed, put some bullet holes in the robotic copter. Then they arrested him for criminal misconduct and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. The owner can also try to recover some money for the damage to his drone. In other words, the message on this one is pretty clear: you can’t shoot your neighbor’s drone. And, just for the record, you still can’t shoot your neighbor either.
But that doesn’t mean people don’t want to shoot down drones, and they continue to do so. Last year, a guy named Phil Steel proposed drone-hunting licenses for his Colorado town. The ordinance included the following provisos:
A drone flying into Deer Trail airspace is tantamount to an act of war
As soon as a drone drops to 1,000 feet or less, fire away
You only can fire three shots, unless you’re in danger
But the people of Deer Trail, Colorado voted down his proposal, despite its mayoral support, and despite the fact that Steel claims to have sold 800-900 already. Steel still plans to sell $25 drone-hunting licenses elsewhere, and a Montana politician shot one down as part of a campaign video.
The question of whether drones can fly over private property is tough because it’s not clear who, if anyone, owns airspace. National parks have banned drones from flying over their land, but if a drone flies high enough, like an airplane, then the ban doesn’t apply. And private homeowners aren’t national parks. Shooting down a drone that might be hovering over your property violates laws of property and possession—namely, that you can’t break other people’s stuff.
I’m just waiting for the advent of guard drones that patrol private land and homes and challenge any airborne trespassers. Of course, the guard drones would have to use scare tactics over might, but painting a terrifying face on the drone would be a good start.