Drone Download: The “can you shoot ‘em?” edition

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This week a Kentucky judge cleared a man of charges for shooting a neighbor’s drone out of the sky with a shotgun. The defendant, William Merideth — of Bullitt County, Kentucky — claimed his neighbor used the drone to spy on Merideth’s family, and worried in particular about his teenage daughter who had been sunbathing in the back yard. The plaintiff and the drone’s owner, David Boggs, said he was flying well above the “ten feet” that Merideth claimed, and taking pictures of a neighbor’s house. Boggs backed this up with flight data that showed the drone at 250 feet and above. (If true, this is actually a pretty impressive distance for Meredith to hit with a shotgun.)

The judge, however, dismissed Boggs’ allegations of wanton endangerment and criminal mischief. She ruled that the drone invaded Merideth’s privacy, and so he had cause to shoot it out of the sky.

Aside from the general recklessness of firing live ammunition knee-jerk style into the air, the decision points to another problem: how the FAA defines drones.

It’s a felony to fire a weapon at an aircraft in U.S. national airspace. And the FAA claims its dominion over drones by defining them as aircraft. So on the surface it would seem to be a felony to shoot a gun at a drone.

The FAA, of course, doesn’t really want to touch this. But if rules don’t get firmed up soon, I can picture a Duck Hunt type of Christmas, with an expected one million drones sold. For now, the FAA only “advises” that you don’t shoot at drones, primarily for the public danger that a falling drone presents, which they assume would be more than a struck duck.

So the question this week: What do you see as the pros and cons of this ruling? Let me know in the comments section. It’s definitely a hot issue, so rant away.

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