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Dec 3

Neighbors Dispute Over Drone Shootdown

Drones/UAVs California Liability

Posted on December 3, 2014 — by Nick Reed

In California, a dispute is brewing over a shot down UAV.  According to the owner of the UAV, he was flying the drone over his own (parent's) property.  The UAV did not have a camera on it, and it was a purely recreational flight.  As the UAV was flying, the neighbor suspected it was taking photos of his property.  The neighbor show the UAV with his shotgun, downing the $700 drone.  (There's a great scene in Amazon's Alpha House in which a drone meets the shot of Gil John Biggs gun that I imagine as a dramatization of this conflict.  Everyone agrees the drone landed on the pilot's own (parent's) land.  

The pilot has said on reddit that although the neighbor initially agreed to pay for at least part of the cost of the UAV, he has since backtracked and won't pay at all.  The most interesting comment, however, comes from other readers who suggest that perhaps the neighbor may be liable under federal statutes for shooting a weapon at an aircraft.  

And, this is likely true, but certainly not clear.  The issue revolves around the definition of "aircraft."  Last year, Forbes wrote that a Colorado town tried to pass a law that permitted its residents to shoot down drones.  The article describes the difference between shooting at a civil or public aircraft, and that UAVs used for recreational purposes may not fit the definition of "aircraft."  As the FAA continues to develop its regulations relating to UAVs and drone use, the breadth of the definition of "aircraft" - if a UAV is included or excluded as "aircraft" are will have to be reckoned with.

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