The “Drone Slayer” federal lawsuit was recently dismissed by Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell. I originally covered this story back in March of 2016 and more recently again when the dismissal occurred. In case you aren’t familiar with the story, here is the short version:
William Merideth shot down a drone flying over his home in June 2015. The drone’s pilot, David Boggs, filed a lawsuit in January asking the court in Louisville to make a legal determination as to whether his drone’s flight constituted trespassing. Boggs asked the court to rule that he is entitled to damages of $1,500 for his destroyed drone.
You might be asking why exactly did William shoot down the drone? Why not just be neighborly and simply request that the drone not be flown over your your property? According to William:
He told police he had no way of knowing if the drone was being operated by “a predator looking at my children”.
What exactly was David Boggs suing for in this federal case? Boggs was seek $1,500 in damages. However the larger issue, for drone operators everywhere, is where is the property ownership line drawn when it comes to drones and trespassing. We can find the answer in a 1946 U.S. Supreme Court case.
The issue of drones falls in line with the The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1946 case, United States v. Causby, which held that a chicken farmer could be compensated for the loss to his business caused by military planes that barely missed the tops of trees on his property. The Supreme Court didn’t say how far the farmer’s property rights extended into the sky, but it found he owns “at least as much of the space above the ground as he can occupy or use in connection with the land.”
Taking that case into consideration, combined with witness testimony in the “Drone Slayer” case stating the drone was flying below the tree line, it becomes easier to understand why Judge Russell dismissed the case.
Next time you fly your drone, even if you are maintaining proper line of sight, always consider whose property you are flying over and possible even flying into.