Question of the Day: Would You Shoot Down a Drone?

The expression “a man’s home is his castle” is derived from an English homeowner’s right to defend his dwelling by any means necessary, including lethal force. That right disappeared from The Land of Hope and Glory some time ago. Fortunately, it lives on her in Her Majesty’s former colony where it’s known as the Castle Doctrine. Moving forward a few hundred years from the origins of English common law, stateside drone over-flights are testing the limits of property rights.

Absent any FAA guidelines on the subject, the legality of downing drones flying over your property depends on where you are. As we reported before, a New Jersey resident recently blasted a drone flying over the house he was building. Garden State authorities arrested him for possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief. Somehow I don’t think a Texas rancher would face the same penalties.

If a drone were flying over your property, would you shoot it? Don’t forget: many towns and cities prohibit discharging a firearm for anything other than self-defense purposes. One more thing, there’s now a non-ballistic solution to pesky drones (as above) — which also operates in a legal grey area. So, would you blast, hijack, or hang fire?

comments

  1. avatar David N says:

    Unless it was delivering a valid search and seizure warrant, yes.

  2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    I’d shoot it down but I wouldn’t admit to it when the po-po come around.

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      Why risk all the legal hassle of using a firearm? An industrial strength laser pointer would fry that camera PDQ and good luck to the guy trying to fly it back home unless he was close enough to see the thing when the camera died.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        I’ve got a 300mW 532 nm laser by my bed that would work nicely for that purpose.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          Nice for popping balloons and lighting matches, but thanks to high-speed BluRay burners dropping in price, blue laser diodes can be had that will do several watts.

          Literally, ‘You’ll burn your eye out, kid!”

          I am curious about something, have you heard about any burning laser attacks on people? Like a kid setting someone’s hair on fire? Not shined at aircraft – helicopters, but relatively close range?

  3. avatar FedUp says:

    My response depends on what it’s doing.

    Just flying around, ignore it.

    Hovering around windows, take some cellphone pics of it and follow it home to try to ID the owner before deciding whether to try to sic the sheriff’s department on it.

    Hovering over humans close enough to be a threat to safety, blast it.

  4. avatar DaveR says:

    Not enough info to know circumstances here, but man that was a lovely, quick shot!

    1. avatar matt in tx says:

      Both barrels!

    2. avatar DaveR says:

      Phooey. Never mind. Video is obviously staged/fake.

      1. avatar Charlie Mike says:

        I’d fake shoot down a fake drone in a fake YouTube video any fake day of a fake week.

        But a real drone? Depends on the circumstances and the direction the drones camera was pointed. The magic 8 ball says “Very Likely”

        Get off (the airspace above) my lawn!

  5. avatar Alex Waits says:

    probably.

  6. avatar snap1415 says:

    You blanking A tweety I’d shoot it down!

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    I’d moon it. I guaranty that it would never appear over my property again.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Similar to what I was going to say. Waddle my pasty white, fat old man body out there and maybe start with the lotion.

      Damn drone would fly into a transformer to burn that image out of it’s chips.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        There are damn few good things to say about being old. This is one of them.

        1. avatar Deplorable Timmy! says:

          Watch out guys. Your sexytime talk might get the Grey Zimmer all hot and bothered!

  8. avatar JayHu says:

    in the farmers case, I would have done the same thing. where I live, it would be better to hijack it or take down with another form of projectile. maybe one of those soda can guns, or one of those guns that shoots a net that spreads out. hijacking it would be ideal, because it would then become MINE.

  9. avatar LKB says:

    Shooting or jamming drones are both pretty much illegal, especially in a populated area.

    However, I’d imagine that unless you were bragging about it in public or otherwise made it obvious that you were involved in such activity, it would be very hard and expensive for a prosecutor to prove a case of jamming . . . and that assumes that the local US attorney’s office would even be interested in investigating or pursuing the case (jamming would be a violation of federal law). Absent some unusual aggravating circumstance (e.g., you jam drone, drone then falls onto power transformer, transformer then explodes and starts wildfire), I’m not seeing that this would be something most US attorney’s offices would be particularly interested in expending resources on. (Trust me, it’s hard to get them to do anything that’s not already on their “to do” list.)

    Once again, however, this sort of jamming is illegal, so don’t do it.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      That’s what I always say (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

  10. avatar Matt in FL says:

    I’d ignore it, unless it was being dangerous and or hassling. Drones are still squarely in the realm of the harmless hobbyist, anyway, except in extreme outlier situations. To me, it’s no different than cars driving down the street. The FAA owns the air above 500 ft, and they set up regulations requiring drones to stay below 400 to avoid interfering with aircraft. I think they also actually made it illegal to interfere with drones in flight (which is presumed to be innocent transit, I guess).

    1. avatar CCDWGuy says:

      Sorry, but wrong as a drone owner/operator and photographer who has spent a significant amount of time messing with this issue in a non-professional but in attentive manner below is the FAA’s response to airspace below 500 feet.

      Myth #1: The FAA doesn’t control airspace below 400 feet

      Fact—The FAA is responsible for the safety of U.S. airspace from the ground up. This misperception may originate with the idea that manned aircraft generally must stay at least 500 feet above the ground

      Just go to FAA.gov or google as I did to be sure, “What airspace does the FAA regulate.”

      You don’t own it except from an invasion of privacy action, ie. someone photographing/video where there is an expectation of privacy that could result in taking the individual to court. As this site loves confirmation here is a link to the FAA FAQ’s in the drone world. https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=76240

      1. avatar Matt in FL says:

        So you’re confirming everything I said except the part about the FAA owning the air (implied only) above 500 feet. You’re correct. They regulate everything from the ground up.

        1. avatar CCDWGuy says:

          Yes, that would be correct, they own it from the ground up.

        2. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Let’s not get crazy. The FAA is only involved in transit of the airspace by vehicles, they do not “own” it in any sense. For example, you do not need their permission to build a structure above your own property.

  11. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    circumstances depending, of course.
    but the prospect of bringing a drone down is certainly appealing. potato cannon? i’m deadly with a slingshot, even firing arrows. trebled snag hook on stout rod and reel setup. water ballon launcher. blowgun!
    frisbee, boomerang, boring.
    you duffers should be practicing your chip shots…
    this sounds like a really cool application of falconry, though.

  12. avatar mk10108 says:

    Is there and app for high jacking? Add a bit like the Square to transmit.

  13. avatar Lib lurker says:

    Well, if the faa says a private party can fly and spy on my property then what stops the government or friendly contractors from doing so?

    1. avatar Ing says:

      Nothing stops them, except the fact that the government hates competition. It wants to be the *only* one allowed to spy on you.

  14. avatar Geoff PR says:

    Shoot it down? Nope.

    Cram so much broadband RF noise down its throat so it spazzes out on its own and crashes?

    You betcha! 🙂

    1. avatar Robb says:

      And how would one do that?

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        Mini Circuits is good for something off-the-shelf:

        http://www.minicircuits.com

        Mix and match to suit your needs, or just Google “WiFi jammer”:

        https://www.google.com/#q=WiFi+jammer

        Understand the Feds will take a *very* dim view of this, so don’t do anything stupid like being seen outdoors or by a window with something in your hand with a button on it when a drone goes *splat*…

    2. avatar strych9 says:

      LOL! Don’t tell the FCC!

  15. I wouldn’t shoot down a drone merely for violating my airspace, but would without reservation take hostile action against one hovering around while the missus and I work on our no-tanlines out by the pool.

  16. avatar Rick the Bear (now in NH!!) says:

    Down it with a net or something other than a bullet/pellets, pull and disappear the chip. “I don’t know how it ended up in my yard.”

  17. avatar Vhyrus says:

    Somewhat off topic, but there was a situation here recently where a man threatened to inject HIV into a specific person unless that person paid him off. Instructions were given to leave the money in a very specific type of packaging in a specific spot at a certain time. The police were contacted and surveillance was placed on the drop. A short time after the drop was made, a drone descended and actually picked up the package and took it to the extortionist, who was waiting nearby in a car. The guy was caught, of course. Just goes to show you that not everything in the movies actually works.

    http://www.abc15.com/news/crime/mesa-pd-man-threatens-to-shoot-victims-with-tranquilizer-gun-filled-with-hiv

  18. avatar Ed Rogers says:

    A well-aimed .22 pellet from a decent air rifle should have a good effect.

    It all depends upon the situation. I’m a videographer myself and I could definitely see the benefits of having more perspectives.

    When you invade the property of others though, you’re breaking the law. I have no sympathies to the operators whose drones are destroyed.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      There are a lot of ideas here, but we seem to be missing the main point, what would be the most fun? Off my back deck is 500 yards of lake before we’re back to land. Damn right I’d shoot it, with a 12-guage! Because it would be FUN! It wouldn’t take a minute for one of my sons to back me up that I had suggested that they could fly a drone over for me to have target practice, in the unlikely event anybody protested the perforation of their drone. I thought it was my kids! Too bad! WTF were you doing, again?

  19. avatar Soylent Green says:

    Wonder if an airsoft rifle would damage one? Many airsoft rifles can go on full auto, and some have very large capacities.

    Prob can’t run afoul of johnny law that way.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      A standard air soft .12 or .20 pellet wouldn’t do much to a good drone. A few aluminum BBs, which are strong enough to break glass beer bottles, would break a camera or damage the plastic skin of a DJI phantom or similar drone at close range.

  20. avatar DaveW says:

    Not until they come out with a good Drone Cookbook. I hear they are pretty tough no matter how long you cook them. At least I have my Roadkill Cookbook. 🙂

  21. avatar Dennis says:

    In a heartbeat.

  22. avatar Greg Merryman says:

    Not to poo poo this subject, but the vid looks fake. After the drone is supposedly hit, it spins around and you see the farmer again with his hat on (he threw it down before he shot). Not only is he a snap shot, but he is also a time ninja!

    But to answer the question, I’ll give a drone one flyover and then it’s time to bring it down on the second pass

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      So the neighbor kid’s drone can head out over your property but it can’t return to base via the same course?

    2. avatar Vhyrus says:

      Pretty sure you’re right. There’s a cut in the video right after the shot and the turn. Not only that, but theres zero recoil from the shotgun, and if you go frame by frame during the tumble I’m pretty sure you can see someone’s thumb in the corner of the shot like they’re holding the drone and some tree branches.

      Also, this ‘farmer’ apparently owns a Porsche 911. Not exactly your typical farm truck.

  23. avatar Mad Max says:

    If it gets within 21 feet of me, it’s dead.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      It might have a knife.

      1. avatar Mad Max says:

        Just applying the same rule.

        They typically have rotating blades. I think that if if comes within 21 feet, I’m justified in shooting it in self defense.

  24. avatar Kyle says:

    I live in an Urban area, I’d only shoot it down if I felt it was purposely spying on me with malicious intent.

    1. avatar Rusty Chains says:

      So, how are judging the intent of an inanimate object?

  25. avatar Justin says:

    My local bow range has an archery skeet shoot. Using special “flu flu” arrows we shoot at foam disks that are lauched in the air. would it still count if i did it with my bow? I shoot a javaman custom americana with a 65# draw im sure it would more than take a drone down when it hit

  26. avatar Tym O'Byrne says:

    Get your own drone and crash into the offending drone, why waste ammo?

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      I don’t know where you live, but around here a decent drone costs a few hundred bucks while a box of ammo is in the tens of dollars, usually…

  27. avatar Southern Cross says:

    I would but I would use either the garden hose if the range was close or a pressure washer attachment for further reach.

  28. avatar knightofbob says:

    Jamming or hijacking is not a gray area, it is an FCC violation. Calling it a gray area is like saying running a stoplight is a gray area. It’s still breaking the law if you don’t get caught.

    If you’re in an area where there won’t be an issue with shooting it down, shoot it down. Your property rights extend up to FAA space. You own that air it’s flying in. People spend thousand of dollars on their little toys and then think they’re entitled to do whatever they want with them. They need to learn it’s not true. Having the money to buy a new Bently doesn’t give you the right to park it on your neighbor’s lawn at night. If the drone were a manned aircraft, it would be a clear trespassing charge, and an unexpected and unwanted intruder is itself an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm.

    Personally, I live in an area where a firearm discharge could become a legal issue, and I’m toying with the idea of building a counter-drone. Not because there are a lot of issues with people flying drones into owned airspace here, but because I like the idea of building a counter-drone.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “Jamming or hijacking is not a gray area, it is an FCC violation. Calling it a gray area is like saying running a stoplight is a gray area. It’s still breaking the law if you don’t get caught.”

      Yeah, but since the X-mitter is on only a few seconds, getting caught will be tough.

      Unless you’re stupid enough to make a frequent habit of crashing drones…

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        I would be concerned that a savvy operator might know what you did and report you for intentionally creating interference.

        I know the FCC does do some limited searching for people who violate the agency’s rules. It’s difficult to catch people but they’ve busted some people around me for upping the output on a CB to increase range/for funzies.

        Of course those people were doing other dumb stuff like sitting on a hill continuously broadcasting anti Obama rants.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          CB’ers tend to stay in one place unless mobile, making it far easier to triangulate them and finding their very non-linear linear amps. It isn’t difficult for someone with some time to track them down. A directional antenna with very sharp, deep nulls in the radiation pattern works much better than looking for the strongest signal in radio direction hunting.

          This gives a broad overview : http://www.homingin.com/

          In general, the FCC usually operates in a response to a complaint mode (but that has changed in the past).

  29. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I like #4 shot. #6 lacks a little oomph if they are flying high. I’m sure a good turkey load would work as well. Full choke.

  30. avatar MisterAmax says:

    Inside city limits is incredibly reckless. On a farm…I can see that. In most cases, if low enough, snap a clear photo of it and get help from the police. Try to locate and get a picture of the operator. In most cases, they will consider this a type of activity you have to be licensed for. Surveying, low altitude activities, ect.

    I get the anger. I would want to shoot it down too, but living in the city I can only discharge a firearm if I’m defending life or property. Unless that drone is causing property damage…even then I would ask the police to shoot it down to take me out of any stupid legal issues from the owner…you never know in this day and age. On a farm…I would try to find the operator, take the high road, and ask him to stop. If he’s a butt, I’ll blow it up.

  31. avatar GS650G says:

    There are ways to drop a drone without using gunpowder. So the real battle will be for innovative ways to collect drones off your lawn. And when the owner comes looking good for it that’s when different laws apply.

  32. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    Fortunately I don’t live in a town or city. I shoot clay pigeons in my backyard. I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot a drone.

  33. avatar CCDWGuy says:

    I did not read all the comments but I believe I have commented on this before. The FAA regulates the airspace from the ground up. Just go to https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=76240 for FAA FAQ’s on drone items. I own and fly drones and hope to take the test to get a drone certificate and have spent a lot of time with this issue.
    Hobby drones do not have “spy” cameras, they have extremely wide angle lenses with fixed f/stop lenses that allow them to photograph landscapes and scenery in a pretty effective manner, they can’t be zoomed in to get a close up photo.

    Shooting one down for flying over your property in a lot of locations could/would result in a problem just due to local laws about discharging a weapon. Call the police and file a complaint and try to “profile” a description of the drone as accurately as possible.

    Flying and videoing/photographing in an area where you have an expectation of privacy is potentially a violation of the law the same a using a long lens to photograph you in your living room from a sidewalk. Let me just say that cell phones are probably more possibly damaging than any drone. Sorry for the long post, I don’t usually go on this much.

  34. avatar Adub says:

    Some states classify a BB gun as a firearm because it relies on “compressed gas” to operate, so you might run afoul of the law. However, drones are generally fragile and it wouldn’t take much to break one. Hit a flimsy propeller with an air gun and it will shatter, causing a loss of balance and lift. The drone will then crash. Hit it with a water ballon and it is definitely going down.

  35. avatar justin_ga says:

    I’d never shoot it down with a “Firearm”!…..Well unless it was mine, I knew what what was behind it, and it was a safe and legal to discharge my firearm at it. Besides Nerf, Airsoft, and Paintball guns work just as well in downing a drone. First let me say I’m a big time R/C hobbyist. Boats, On road and off road vehicles, Planes, Helicopters, X-copters(Drones), etc. I personally despise the “Drone” crowd for two reasons. One they don’t know how to actually fly because everything is been made so idiot proof(Auto takeoff, Auto Landing, Obstacle avoidance, and on and on). The second reason I despise the “drone” crowd is they have F@0ED my aerial hobbies. If I fly a my R/C planes or helicopter’s everyone thinks they are taking pictures of them to spank off to. So I now have to spend at least a half hour explaining that this is not a “drone” and doesn’t take pictures to every idiot who see’s me trying to relax and enjoy my hobby. Also for all those that are concerned about getting the “Drone” away from their property and other annoyances, I’m going to tell you a super simple way to make it go back where it took off from and land with the owner thinking it must have been a glitch or something.
    1.) 99% of the “Drones” that are operated by idiots are made by DJI.
    2.) They use a WiFi connection to send video and other real time data.
    3.) If you interfere with that WiFi connection they are designed to automatically return to Home/takeoff location until communication is restored, if communications can’t be restored it will eventually auto land itself when battery gets low.
    4.) How do I interfere with that connection. I use two free programs one is called “KisMac” the second “JamWifi”.
    5.) Open KisMac and scan until you find the correct wifi network and client(drone). When you are absolutely sure you have identified the drone device write down the whats called the MAC address.
    6.) Lastly open the second program called JamWifi and find the correct MAC address of the drone and jam it.
    7.) Lastly I guess I should say don’t use JamWifi against networks or devices you don’t own and always follow all local, state, and federal laws.

    1. avatar Soylent Green says:

      shame you cant hunt them with a P51 R/C replica. I suppose it would have to be armed with something, which would run afoul of some law. But how fun would that be?

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        At the rate we’re going, just wait a few years and we’ll have guided missiles for that P51 RC. Obtaining the gun camera film would start being, like, PROFITABLE, dig?

  36. avatar Fred Frendly says:

    Yup. 200 ft (some say 500 ft the FAA interpretations vary, being conservative 200 ft is well within trespassing distance) above the dirt is YOUR airspace. Out in the country drones and RC planes are fair game. Take your snooping elsewhere, around here its 12 gauge country, nerdos.

    Speaking of which, those Hawk 12 ga. Chicom 870 clone shotguns are worth a look. Robust steel construction, polymer trigger housing. Heavy, but low recoil. Interchangeable standard chokes, accurate with good patterns. Decent triggers, stiff operating controls, overall very solid low cost shotguns.

  37. avatar Hoplopfheil says:

    Only if I had a drone tag to fill.

  38. avatar Anonymous says:

    No. I’d probably just get out my own drone and follow the trespassing drone to it’s destination and record it’s owner.

  39. avatar former water walker says:

    MAYBE…:)

  40. avatar junkman says:

    Out in the country–if a drone was snooping over my property, down it would come

  41. avatar Arizona Free says:

    So help me clarify something. I occupy the first six feet of airspace. This is the same airspace the FAA has jurisdiction over. We have a conflict as to who has ownership and usage of said six feet of air. We need to nitpick since this is where the government lives. My usage of the airspace on my land means nothing may occupy the same airspace, yes, no? Without clear cut boundaries this will wind up with the lack of enjoyment of the property owner of said property. Lots of lawsuits by homeowners because of loud music, barking dogs, parties. Drones will be declared a public nuisance because homeowners pay property taxes and drones cause a drain of resources.

  42. avatar Accur81 says:

    Nope. I’d just close the blinds. If it got close enough, I’d hit it with a garden hose. Plenty of drones are capable of real-time 1st person viewing and recording. In 4K. Any actions you take might be on high def video and can be used against you in a court of law.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Drone, camera, batteries, all at the bottom of 100′ lake, evidence is suddenly lacking.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        They can record in HD as they are flying and save directly to the operator’s cell phone.

  43. avatar Docduracoat says:

    Knight of bob you are 100% wrong
    Matt in Fl you are right
    A home owner does not own any air space over his property
    Drones are defined as aircraft by the FAA
    Interfering with them by jamming , netting, or shooting at them is a federal crime
    It is completely legal for them to fly over your property any altitude
    The only recourse if it is photographing through your windows is to try to identify the operator and go after them on a stalking charge

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Most people’s homes are inside the airspace above their property. Don’t be ridiculous, the FAA does not control the airspace in my kitchen! If a flying vehicle has a tail number and is registered with the government, ie is worth hundreds of thousands of bucks, the FAA is interested in it. If you bought it at the grocery store for $100 the whole argument is silly. Don’t endanger anything which is alive, otherwise dynamite the thing if you wish, the FAA has nothing to do with it.

  44. avatar Todd says:

    video is a fake

  45. avatar IdahoBoy says:

    Time to revive the sport of kings: falconry.

  46. avatar Kaban says:

    Discreetly employed ISM transmitter makes no noise to attract police and alert neighbours, leaves no physical damage on drone parts and no evidence on drone cam.

    That said, I guess it’ll take 30+ years for massive drone traffic to materialize in my place, so…

  47. avatar BDub says:

    Thats one fake-assed video. They even did the hard work for you and gave a close-up of the horribly muzzle-flash compositing, while also demonstrating the producers of this vid don’t understand guns enough to add projectiles and smoke.

  48. avatar Fight islam Now says:

    A drone may not deliver a warrant or any type of civil process

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