Before you consider shooting down a drone, whether you plan on using a shotgun or an air cannon, you should remember this fact – you could face jail time and more. Drone operators have rights, and not only are drones private property, they are also considered by the FAA to be legitimate aircraft.
Like many drone pilots, my quadcopters have been shot at. My DJI S900 with a GH4 and Z15 mount was shot at by a, to remain nameless, drunk and unruly neighbor. Hat’s off to DJI because my drone remained airborne and safely returned back to me, even after being hit multiple times. I count myself very lucky to have not lost any of my very expensive equipment. If my neighbor was a better shot and he had hit the 16000
In the final ruling of the infamous Pirker case, the National Transit Safety Board (NTSB) had a few interesting things to say. I’m going to let John Goglia of Fortune magazine paraphrase and summarize a bit here.
In conclusion, the NTSB stated “this case calls upon us to ascertain a clear, reasonable definition of “aircraft” for purposes of the prohibition on careless and reckless operation in
After that ruling from the NTSB, it’s clear in my opinion that both the NTSB and FAA have the official position that drones are aircraft because they can be categorized “as any aircraft, manned or unmanned, large or small,” “used for flight in the air.”
Why is this important? It means drones are afforded the same legal protections and rights as the
(a) Whoever willfully—
(1) sets fire to, damages, destroys, disables, or wrecks any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or any civil aircraft used, operated, or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce;
…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both.
That alone would make me think twice before I decide to willfully damage another person’s property. Since I’m not a lawyer, by any stretch, I wanted to reference some real legal opinion on the matter.
“In my legal opinion,” says Peter Sachs, a Connecticut attorney and publisher of Drone Law Journal “it is never okay to shoot at a drone, shoot down a drone, or otherwise damage, destroy or disable a drone, or attempt to do so. Doing so is a federal crime.”
“This applies even if a drone is hovering over your backyard,” says Sachs. “According to the FAA, it controls all airspace from the blades of the grass up. However, even if you did own X feet above your property, you would not be permitted to shoot a drone that flies within that space because shooting any aircraft is a federal crime.”
Numerous states have “peeping tom laws” that restrict voyeurism. It’s still prohibited to shoot a drone down, even if it’s voyeurism-by-drone. That said, there’s a tremendous contrast between a drone making the plunge through an open kitchen window, and one that is hovering around a neighborhood or park. On the off chance that there’s a drone taking pictures or filming a movie around your house the pilot in command (PIC) is inside of his or her First Amendment rights, Sachs says.