It may sound funny, or perhaps even your right, to blast an unmanned aerial vehicle out of the skies over your property. But, in California at least, private property rights still prevail. Further, many suggest that shooting down a drone with a gun should technically be a federal felony offense. Because the Federal Aviation Administration has decided to consider drones "aircraft" (and has fought for that distinction in court) and has not yet created specific rules about their use, shooting at one should be a violation of federal code 18 §32, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The judge ruled that "McBay acted unreasonably in having his son shoot the drone down regardless of whether it was over his property or not." Though it’s not necessarily precedent-setting, it’s still an important case, according to Brendan Schulman, an attorney at Kramer Levin who has more experience in drone law than anyone else in the country.
"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," Schulman told me. "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."
So before you go off half-cocked, remember to respect others' properties. And know the privacy laws of your jurisdiction.
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