Is It Legal to Shoot a Drone Out of the Sky?

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Photo courtesy: Sakhalinio
Photo courtesy: Sakhalinio

The first time you’ll ever hear the unmistakable sound of a drone aircraft buzzing over your head, it will be one of the most disconcerting feelings you’ve ever experienced; especially if you’re in your backyard with your wife and kids on a remote 20-acre tract of land purchased for the sole purpose of having privacy.

What I found most frightening about seeing a drone high above my backyard was the fact that I had no idea who the individual was that was operating the device or what their ultimate intentions were.

Could it have been some kid who recently got a new toy for his birthday?  Probably, or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I write this article, but it could have very well been someone scouting out my property, my family, or my home.

2017 American society is frightening enough and not having any idea who now enjoys a live birdseye video of your family at play in the backyard just adds to these fears.

If so far, this article sounds like it is being written by some “the sky is falling” crazy person on the backside of a mountain, you obviously either have never had children or are clueless as to what it means to live a rural and peaceful life.

Blame it on my redneck nature or my West Virginia upbringing, but my first instinct the moment I caught a glimpse of this flying camera swarming around my backyard was to run in the house and grab my 12-gauge… “That’ll fix that problem right quick,” I thought to myself.

Fortunately, for me, the drone quickly vanished before these instincts turned into actions, because had I done so, I would have been guilty of committing a Federal crime as the Federal Aviation Administration considers drones to be aircraft and therefore blasting a drone out of the sky is on the same level as knocking a 747 down (minus the murder charges).

According to 18 U.S.C. 32, “aircraft sabotage” includes “destruction of any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or any civil aircraft used, operated or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce…”

Last year, John Goglia published an article in Forbes in which he wrote, “According to Loretta Alkalay, an aviation attorney who teaches Drone Law at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, the statute also prohibits interfering with anyone ‘engaged in the authorized operation of such aircraft’ and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Since drones are considered aircraft, threatening a drone or a drone operator, according to Ms. Alkalay, would also be a federal crime subject to five years in prison under this same statute.”

Though Federal officials have been slow to move forward on charging anyone for shooting down a drone on the same charges someone who sabotages an airliner, a Kentucky man was arrested for wanton endangerment and criminal mischief after he shot down a drone in his backyard due to the fact that he believed the unmanned aircraft was spying on his sunbathing 16-year-old daughter..

In October 2015, a Kentucky court dismissed the charges, however, with the judge stating, “He had a right to shoot at this drone, and I’m gonna dismiss this charge…”

Fortunately for the drone shooter, the only charges he faced were for firing a gun within city limits; however, should Federal prosecutors take an interest in his case, the results may be quite different.

The bottom line: Shooting down a drone for any reason whatsoever isn’t a smart move and could land you in major trouble, like 20 years in a federal prison kind of trouble… even if no one is hurt in the process.

Do you have Facebook friends who would be inclined to shoot down a drone?  Share this article with them as a warning!

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