Your home is your castle, and in America, you have the right to defend it within the boundaries of the law. But do the law boundaries give you permission to shoot down drones flying over your property?
As remote or computer-controlled flying robots become more advanced and more accessible, people across the country are beginning to worry they'll be used to spy on them. For less than a thousand bucks, anyone can get a radio-controlled quadcopter drone complete with a high definition camera. That could be used to snap photos in people's yards or through their windows.
Some Americans are advocating an aggressive response to this threat. In fact, the town of Deer Trail, Colorado recently considered an ordinance to offer a $100 bounty for every drone shot down by residents. But would that be legal?
The short answer is no. You should NOT shoot at drones on or near your property. Partially because it would almost certainly be illegal, but also for some other reasons you might not have thought of.
To understand why you can't shoot at drones, let's use a simple analogy: imagine the neighbor's cat wandered onto your property. Or what if somebody drove their car into your driveway without permission? You wouldn't have the right to riddle the cat or car with bullets. The same is true of drones. I'm not a legal expert, but drone lawyer Brendan Schulman told this to Gigaom and it makes sense:
“Most people who encounter alleged trespassers call the police. State “self defense” laws tend to require a threat of imminent bodily harm, and these drones are of course not armed or dangerous, they are just remote controlled model helicopters,” noted drone lawyer, Brendan Schulman.
If you spot a drone over your property, you can call the police, but you shouldn't damage someone's personal property. Courts would see that as an unreasonable response to something that couldn't physically or immediately harm you.
Recently, a New Jersey man was flying a small remote-control helicopter near his home when gun fire rang out and his model aircraft dropped out of the sky.
CBS Philadelphia reports that the drone owner retrieved his crashed chopper and discovered "multiple holes in it that were consistent with a shotgun blast."
Police were called and the man directed officers to where he heard the gun fire. After some investigation, the man's neighbor, Russell J. Percenti was arrested on weapons charges for allegedly shooting down the drone near his house. He was released on bail but the authorities seized his shotgun.
But there is a risk even bigger than the threat of arrest if a drone is shot down.
In Arizona, we have a statute called Shannon's law. It makes it a felony offense to fire a gun randomly into the air. It was enacted after a young girl - an honor student and athlete - was struck and killed by random gunfire in her parents' backyard. Now even though shooting at a drone isn't "random" gunfire, it does illustrate an important point: what goes up must come down.
When you fire into the air, you risk your projectiles (even small-caliber rounds and buckshot) coming down somewhere you can't predict and possibly injuring or killing someone. This is especially true in urban areas like New Jersey. Trained and responsible gun owners never fire in the air unless they're sure nobody can be hit on the way down.
And before you say you're 100% positive you could hit a drone and not miss, watch this video of some experienced shooters trying to bring down a remote-controlled drone in flight:
So what can you do to stop drones from spying on you? Take Brendan Schulman's advice and call the police. Or you could always get one of these wild anti-drone hoodies!
If you fly drones, you need to know that there are some places it's a crime to fly them. Click here to find out where never to fly your remote-controlled planes or helicopters.