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“Historically, the air above a property was often considered to be part of that property,” reports. “The U.S. declared anything higher than 500 feet public airspace in the 1950s. Those regulations were triggered in part by the 1946 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Causby, in which a chicken farmer sued the government to limit military flights over his property.” As asks Whose sky is it anyway?

When a small town American roofer took legal action against a neighbor for shooting down his drone, the local dispute sparked a case that could help shape the newest frontier of property rights law – who owns the air.

Drone owner David Boggs filed a claim for declaratory judgment and damages in the Federal Court after his neighbor William Merideth from Hillview in the southern state of Kentucky blasted his $1,800 drone with a shotgun in July last year.

Boggs argued to the District Court in Kentucky that the action was not justified as the drone was not trespassing nor invading anyone’s privacy, while Merideth – who dubs himself the “drone slayer” – said it was over his garden and his daughter.

After a year of counter argument, a decision on which court jurisdiction should hear the complaint is expected within weeks and this could set new precedents for U.S. law.

Given the possibility — make that certainty — of super-quiet government drone surveillance, armed police drones, celebrity spying drones and pervy drone operators, this is a big deal.

Even if the court rules that the airspace up to 500 feet above your house is yours to defend, I don’t think the good burghers of New Jersey and like-minded anti-gun rights jurisdictions will look too kindly on shotgun-related drone destruction.

But don’t worry! As the video above proves, net guns are a thing. Bound to get smaller and less expensive too. Not to mention electronic drone jammers, anti-drone drones and trained eagles. Yeah capitalism!

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  1. Not gonna lie: the moment I saw the picture, I thought some one had finally went and made a working Telsa Cannon from Fallout 3

  2. While I like the article& hope for a follow-up as to what the court decides… It certainly appears that you folks could (or rather SHOULD) use a proofreader. Should not the title of the article read “THEY Shoot Drones, Don’t They?”??? Come on, folks! Kindly do not make pro-gun people appear stupid. THANKS! Also, should you decide to use the talents of a proofreader, I strongly suggest using me. I have been described as “the best proofreader I have ever met” by MANY very educated people.

  3. If a right of privacy (other than from the government–that battle was fought long ago with helicopters and planes, above 1000 feet anyway, the minimum distance above ground under FAA rules), the paparazzi will go hog wild over celebrity estates–and that will change the law if nothing else does.

    • Actually the minimum flight rules for small planes and helicopters is 500 feet. Drones are limited to flying no higher than 400 feet unless it is necessary in an emergency to exceed that altitude.

      • It depends on where you are, and what you are flying:

        FAR 91.119, Minimum safe altitudes; general

        Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

        (a) Anywhere -An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

        (b) Over congested areas -Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open-air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

        (c) Over other than congested areas – An altitude of 500 feet above the surface except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In that case, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

        d) Helicopters – Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed In paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.

        So, there is no all-encompassing minimum for helos by altitude, though they might be set for specific areas by the FAA. Cropduster airplanes get a little more leeway also and can get closer to structures, people, etc. There are separate regs for that.

        In any other kind of airplane operating under FAR 91, if I am in a rural (other than congested) area, flying over terrain that I could safely land on in the event of a power failure, I can fly as low as I want to, as long as I don’t come within 500 feet of any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure. I’ve done this at about 50-75 feet AGL in Alaska on a couple of occasions in a C-172, and it was fun. Probably also stupid, but fun. This practice is not uncommon in rural parts of Alaska when pilots want to fly VFR under very low clouds and maintain visual contact with the ground. It’s known as a scud run.

        • Edit: “In any other kind of airplane operating under FAR 91, if I am in a rural (other than congested) area that is sparsely populated…

          As a disclaimer to the above comment, I have not flown in years and am very rusty on regulations. So I could be full of shit.

    • nope, you need finer shot, drones are delicate. You need to be able to shatter the props but not destroy the electronics. it will have video and often GPS data recorded on-board. If you just destroy it is just like 1 ant and being proud of yourself. You need to get the operator, so preserving data to back track to them is important.

    • You’d better be in a lot of space, then. 00 buck carries a long way, is dangerous past 200 yards, and a small drone might easily fit in between the holes in the pattern of 8-9 00 buck pellets outside of 25 yard or so, depending upon the choke. Most people slinging 00 are doing so from cylinder / improved cylinder bores.

      I’d say #4-#8 shot with a modified or full choke tube. That will easily destroy plastic and carbon fiber rotors inside 40 yards. It might destroy circuit boards, too, but shooting at drones is hardly gentle.

  4. This is all temporary anyway.
    True nano drones will be commercially available within twenty years and nobody will see or hear them unless actively looking for them.
    Legislation is always playing catch-up.

    Right now it’s loud, obvious and corny if a neighbor wants to perv out on “drone slayers” daughter. Soon enough there will be cameras and mics crawling all over “drone slayers” grand daughters room, shower and hitching along with her to school to check the locker room and all her friends.

    Personal and home security will have to include bug scanning and scrambling. The voyeurism arms race hasn’t even begun yet.

    • Really? And what frequencies are going to be used to control drones that small? And on what kind of equipment are you going to transmit them? We are talking about some practical limits here. You are proposing equipment that would need to operate at frequencies over 300 GHZ. Not likely today, tomorrow or in twenty years.

      • Many said the same types of things back when some were saying that one day we’ll have cell phones that you can watch TV on back in the early 1990s. My uncle was a truck driver back then and was listening to it on the radio and said they had an engineer who went into all this technical detail about how that would never be doable, there was just no way they would ever create phones you could watch TV on. Yet here we are.

        • We are bumping up against the laws of physics. A drone a couple nanometers in size would be too small to carry an antenna for radio control. Once you get much past 300GHZ,IT IS NO LONGER RADIO.
          You can’t put a basketball in a Dixie cup.

    • Everything is temporary… as a certain 3rd party candidate said, in the long term, the sun is going to engulf and destroy the earth. Should we give up on making laws about anything because of the temporal nature of our existence?

  5. The current rules for photography are that you can’t photograph people who are in a place where they have “a reasonable expectation of privacy.” So if you are on a public sidewalk and someone has a drone overhead with a camera they are legal. If you are in your house and someone with a 500mm lens or a drone are taking photos through your front window they are liable for legal action.

  6. Regardless of airspace I live in city limits in CA. Discharging even a pellet rifle here is a no-no. If i lived in a rural area the drone would have to be announcing itself by loud hailer that it was an official vehicle and had a warrant to be there. Otherwise how would I know it wasn’t a perv or a drug smuggler?

  7. “Not to mention electronic drone jammers…” NOPE! Never going to happen, the FCC will take swift and strong action against any kind of EM jammer. Now any drone that uses infrared, that’s a different story, the FCC doesn’t care about light.

    • The FCC may not care about light (yet) but the FAA takes a very dim view of people shooting lasers into the sky. Sure you could argue that your house is miles from the airport or any low altitude flight area… but how much do you think they care if they have decided you are the perfect person to be an example?

  8. Current FAA rule for drones: The drone may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight. The drone must operate below 500 feet altitude and no faster than 100 mph. Drones must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).

    So if a drone flies over you in your yard–and you’re able to get the registration number, which I’m told must be displayed on the aircraft–you can file a complaint with the FAA. So keep that camera with telephoto lens handy. Seems like a no win for the drone operator, if you own the first 500 feet above your property, and the drone can fly no higher than 500 feet, then over your property is either trespassing or exceeding FAA altitude limit.

    • Drones must operate within line of sight of the pilot, they cannot exceed 400 feet altitude unless they have to exceed that limit in an emergency. Small planes and helicopters have to be at 500 ft minimum. While some of my drones require registration all of my registration numbers and I would assume most every other operator place them on the top not the bottom of the drone. Also, most of these drones are recreational and even with a 4K camera if the drone is above 100 feet the video is going to be limited in detail with people on the ground. These drones do not have spy cameras and are designed for landscape video and still photos. If you are in a public area and a drone is overhead they can video/photograph anything they want, if you are in a place where you have an expectation of privacy you can attempt to locate the operator and may have some possibility of legal action. Shooting down the drone, unless you are in a really rural area might not be the best option.

      • yeah, any idiot with a phantom 3 that KNOWS he will be doing sketchy stuff with it is not going to register with the FAA either. My RC planes and Drones wear the reg # inside the fuselage, as permitted by the FAA.

      • Just because you haven’t fitted your drone with state-of-the-shelf optics, doesn’t mean the pervs and the paps haven’t. Because they have.

        I don’t give two good flyin’s about your hobby, it has some very cool results but… stay away from land that isn’t public unless you have the owner’s permission, and don’t think that just because there isn’t (yet) definitive law limiting your overflights, that it is a within your rights to hang out over that pool party. It’s bad form and even a semi-skilled geek will crash your peeping tom device into the pool. Then sue you because you lost control of your drone, and can’t prove otherwise.

    • Be aware – They have video cameras that transmit in real time to the operator’s control unit, where it is stored. So the pilot has video evidence of you shooting the drone down, even if you destroy the aircraft.

      So… before you opt for a ballistic solution, you best be sure you have the high ground, legally speaking.

      • And I suspect, legally speaking, that “I shot his quadcopter because it was trespassing over my yard” will get you every bit as far in court as “I torched his car because he parked it in my front yard”.

  9. Remember that TV show “Battlebots”? This would seem to be the perfect time to resurrect the theme with “Battledrones”!

  10. I’m looking at getting a DJI Mavic Pro drone in the future. It just got released – today. It has a 4K camera that can film at 30 frames / second, an altitude ceiling of 16,400 feet, a top speed of 40 mph, and collision avoidance. It has real-time 1st person filming capability which can be downloaded to YouTube, as well as moving object recognition, and “follow me” recognition. It has an alleged operating range of 4.3 miles line of sight, 27 minutes of flight time, and impressive endurance. The whole package folds down to a size about 8″ x 4″ x 3″ and can clip on a belt. The marketing videos have it flying over an active volcano and live-streaming back to a classroom in real time. I’ll be registering it with the FAA (as well as myself) since I currently lack 80% er drone capabilities. The package retails at about $999 with the transmitter and $749 for the drone by itself, which can be flown on a smart phone via Wifi. The multiple battery package runs about $1299.

    There are hexacopters and octocopters that can transport a DSLR camera platform with impressive remote zoom capabilities. The new Dobby drone is basically a glorified flying selfie-stick, and even smaller than the Mavic Pro. Who knows if the .gov have developed flying bug drones which can be released from larger drones. I’m guessing they either have or its in the works. The technology is impressive.

    My point is that these drones are developing incredible capabilities. I could see them carrying Tasers and being used in law enforcement. The small racing drones can do 70-80 mph.

    If I can take cool shooting videos and share them here, I will certainly do so.

    TTAG talking about shooting drones may get a whole lot more real in the future. I’m not going to be a douchebag drone pilot, but there are a lot of people out there who won’t necessarily respect privacy or decency.

  11. One thing nobody is considering.

    Looking at it from the drone operator’s standpoint… If I’m flying my drone and obeying all the rules, anyone that’s within a range that allows them to shoot at the drone puts them within range to shoot at me.

    Now since you’re shooting in my direction, I’m probably going to return fire. So far, most drone operators that have been in the news haven’t been gun owners and/or were clearly breaking some rules, but this is an issue that could potentially come up.

  12. And we think there is no privacy now. Give it another decade and your neighbor will know where your wife’s secret tattoo is located…without her consent.

  13. Flying a drone above someone’s house or property, then claiming ‘its legal!’ is kind of like standing on the street out in front of someone’s house I suppose. The street is public (city) property, but one can still get in trouble for harassment / stalking / peeping if the home / property owner feels threatened or feels like their privacy is being invaded and calls the police.


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