FAA: Shoot down a drone, go to jail (for up to 20 years!)

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Daniel Howley

Technology Editor

Turns out that firing a gun into the air to shoot down your neighbor’s drone is illegal. In other news, water is wet.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed to Forbes that — despite what some well-armed citizens may think — trying to shoot down a drone is, in fact, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The FAA made the statement in response to questions by Forbes following an incident in which an Arkansas man thought his neighbor was flying a drone over his backyard to videotape his children. To stop what he saw as an invasion of his privacy, the man grabbed his rifle and shot the drone out of the sky.

But, according to the FAA, a drone is considered a civilian aircraft. And, under Title 18 of the U. S. Code, section 32, destroying one can get you up to 20 years in the slammer, as well as a hefty fine.

The Arkansas incident isn’t the first of its kind. People have been shooting down drones all over the country, from California to my home state of New Jersey.

But it seems citizens are receiving mixed signals about whether they have the right to blast a drone they consider to be invading their privacy out of the sky.

Take, for example, the case of Kentucky resident William Merideth, who shot a drone that he said was hovering over his backyard last summer. According to Kentucky’s WDRB, Merideth was charged with wanton endangerment and criminal mischief. A judge eventually dismissed the charges, saying Merideth had a right to protect his privacy by shooting down the drone.

The matter gets all the more interesting when you take into account the fact that at least one drone owner managed to affix a gun to his flying machine.

So where does that leave us? Well, the federal government has yet to prosecute an individual for shooting down a drone. But that doesn’t mean the feds won’t step in at some point and bring the hammer down on some drone-blaster.

When faced with a drone or drone operator who may be invading your privacy, your best bet is to get as much information as you can and report it to the police. They’ll be able to handle things from there.

Conversely, if you’re a drone owner, maybe you should try to avoid flying over people’s houses — or at the very least, don’t hover over their backyards.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

via: Forbes