If you were wondering if you can shoot the drones that you feel are threatening your privacy or if someone else can shoot your drone for the same reason, the answer is here. No, you can’t.
You remember last time where we talked about how Eric Joe from Modesto, California had his drone shot out of the sky by his neighbour Brett McBay and who decided not to pay for the damages? Well, he sued him and won. Because of how McBay admitted to the act himself and because there was an email exchange alluding to the admission, the judge ruled in favour of Joe, awarding him $850 in damages.
What could make things worse for McBay though is the threat of imprisonment because drones are technically considered aircraft by the FAA. However, there’s no news of potential criminal ramifications yet, though this does spell considerable legal ramifications when it comes to drone use in the future.
“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,” Brendan Schulman, an attorney at Kramer Levin, told Motherboard. “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.”
According to the defendant as stated in the emails they exchanged, McBay was concerned that his privacy was being invaded because of what he labelled as “surveillance equipment” much like what he thought was used by the CIA. A few points that he got wrong though was that the drone was not equipped with a camera when it was flown. More than that, it was also flown over Joe’s property, so there was no problem when it came to invasion of privacy when the drone was used.
On that note, there have been cases wherein drones were used to invade privacy. So we really can’t say that this is a completely dismissible concern, at least for the moment.