A California man has been ordered to pay $850 in repair costs after his son shot a quadcopter drone out of the sky, in a case demonstrating the ramifications of destroying a drone.
I was flying over my parents’ walnut farm in Modesto, California, a really rural area. I was up in the air for maybe five minutes before I heard a shot,” the drone owner told VICE. “According to my flight data, it wasn’t going very fast or anything, but it just flipped upside down and crashed.”
The owner said he approached his neighbor, Brett McBay, whose son was holding a shotgun.”I yelled over to them and said, ‘Did you shoot that drone?’ and they said ‘Did we get it?'”
The drone owner said McBay originally agreed to pay for the drone, leading to the email exchange below.
According to the drone owner, he only flew the drone over his own property, though that did not seem to matter to the judge.
The judge in the case used the emails as evidence that McBay admitted to his son shooting the drone and ordered McBay to pay the owner. This judgment is now a minor landmark in establishing that a drone cannot be destroyed simply because it flew over private property.
“Even though it’s from small claims court, it supports the proposition that destruction of someone’s property is not an appropriate way to respond to the presence of a drone,” attorney and drone law expert Brendan Schulman told VICE’s Jason Koebler. “Even if a drone is causing a nuisance, potentially invading privacy, creating a hazard, or violating some other law, the appropriate way to respond is to call the authorities, not to take self-help measures involving firearms. Notably, the verdict states that the discharge of the firearm was unreasonable regardless of whether the drone was being flown over the shooter’s property. I think this case is more about the response to the drone operation than it is an indication of what laws apply to the operation of the drone itself.”
Last year, a New Jersey man was arrested for shooting a drone out of the sky. That same year, a Colorado man tried to introduce a bill that would have made it legal in his town to shoot down drones, but it did not pass when the FAA informed residents that it would still be a crime.