While there have been several court cases regarding shooting down drones, which may lead to some confusion for the average drone operator, it’s important to be clear on the rules on who makes them. The FAA has the final say when it comes to “all civil airspace, including that above cities and towns.” According to the FAA, “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane.” Yes, the same as a manned airplane.
As clear as that message seems, we are still seeing people challenging it in court. The good news is most cases have sided with the drone operator. Here are a few examples:
- In Kentucky, a father shot down a drone, claiming that flying over his property was the same as trespassing. He was charged with felony wanton endangerment and criminal mischief. (He later was declared innocent and all charges were dismissed.)
- A New Jersey resident who shot down a neighbor’s drone was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief.
- In California, a man shot down a neighbor’s drone thinking “it was a CIA surveillance device.” The drone’s owner won a suit in a small claims court that found the man “acted unreasonably…regardless of whether it was over his property or not.” The drone owner was awarded $850 in repair costs.
So why are we seeing these court cases? People have legitimate concerns about security and privacy, combined with technology that changes fast, faster than the law can keep pace.
Technology changes everything. Specifically, it upends long-standing societal balances around issues like security and privacy. When a capability becomes possible, or cheaper, or more common, the changes can be far-reaching. Rebalancing security and privacy after technology changes capabilities can be very difficult, and take years. — Bruce Schneier, CTO of Resilient Systems Inc.
While the law can’t keep pace with the industry, it’s up to use as drone operators to keep pace with the law. At Drone Universities, we make sure our students learn about the latest laws and about the protections they afford. This is such an important topic, that it’s part of the core curriculum for our Introduction to Drones course.
Today, according to the FAA, “Whoever willfully” causes damage to an aircraft or aircraft facility can be “fined (not more than $10,000) under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both.”
If you’d like to learn more about the rules today and tommorow (by gaining access to our student education update newsletter), then enroll in our Introduction to Drones course today.