Penalties Continue For Downing Drones; FAA Seeks Mandatory Registration

drone shootdownBy Joe Wright

As hobby drones continue to proliferate across the U.S., the rules about their use remain murky, as do the rules for blasting them out of the sky if you feel personally threatened by one. Since we have had a fair amount of reader support for taking down drones, it’s worthwhile to look at what one might expect if a course of action is taken.

The small town of Deer Trail, Colorado was the first to make national news when in 2013 they announced a proposal to offer residents $100 bounties for every drone shot down via official drone hunting licenses. As Mac Slavo wrote at the time:

Phillip Steel, who authored the original proposal in Deer Trail, Colorado says his ordinance is a “pre-emptive strike” against what he calls a “virtual prison” being created through continued expansion of the surveillance state. (Source)

The proposal of course drew the ire of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which stated that those engaging in such activity would be severely penalized. The town subsequently voted down the measure.


Since then, several cases have emerged where people have felt that either a threat to their privacy or a threat to their safety warranted taking matters into their own hands and downing invasive drones … and it has happened both over private and public property.

A New Jersey man,  Russell Percenti, in late 2014 was the first to have been arrested for downing a drone.  He was charged with criminal mischief and released on bail after blasting his neighbor’s drone with a shotgun, which was subsequently seized. It’s not clear whether the drone was exactly over his property when the shots were fired – later reports say the drone was “near his house” – but the owner admitted to taking pictures of a nearby friend’s house that was under construction.  Percenti has since been indicted by a grand jury and is facing 10 years in prison.

A Kentucky man appears to have been the second person arrested for shooting down a neighbor’s drone. In this case the man, William Merideth, stated that he specifically waited for the drone to hover above his property before taking action.

“Well, I came out and it was down by the neighbor’s house, about 10 feet off the ground, looking under their canopy that they’ve got in their back yard,” Merideth told WDRB. “I went and got my shotgun and I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything unless it’s directly over my property.’”

….

“Within a minute or so, here it came,” he said. “It was hovering over top of my property, and I shot it out of the sky.”

….

“I have a right as an American citizen to defend my property,” Merideth said, according to NBC News. “I think — no, I know — that I was completely justified in protecting my family.”

Seems reasonable … and, in fact, it later was determined by a judge to be absolutely reasonable, as Meredith was cleared of first-degree endangerment and criminal mischief.

A third, and more bizarre, story emerged this past August when an Encinitas, California man who was at the public beach with his friends and family took down a drone with his T-shirt after fearing for the safety of small children in his party. He described the drone as something similar to a flying lawnmower. It took only 10 minutes for sheriff’s deputies to respond and arrest him on charges of felony vandalism. His bail was set at $10,000. Fortunately for him, charges were dropped, but no mention was made of any charges being brought against the drone operator.

Now a new state has a case of drone downing.  In Pennsylvania, 65-year-old Marti Wlodsarski claims she felt a threat to her safety from a drone being operated by her neighbor; she described it similarly as being “like weed whackers coming at you.” In her case, she was able to down the drone with a rock (nice aim!). While she seemed to insinuate that the drone flew over her, it was later proven by video that it was not the case, and she went out of her way to down the drone off her property.  She had to pay for damages, but was cleared of criminal mischief charges. She is unrepentant, as you will see below in the news coverage of the event.

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Clearly, these three cases alone highlight the fact that there is not a universal approach to how law enforcement will respond to those who down drones either in public or private space. And from this “problem” the FAA is already working on the solution.

It was reported by AFP just days ago that the US moves toward mandatory registration of drones. Just in time for Christmas…

Owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more should provide authorities with their name and address and put an ID number on the aircraft, experts hired by the US government recommended Monday.

The tips came as the government rushes to make registration for the popular aircraft mandatory ahead of an expected onslaught of Christmas purchases of them.

….

Current US law bars drone operators from flying them above an altitude of 400 feet (120 meters) or near an airport.

But the rules are often flouted and authorities are often powerless to do anything about it.

In cases of mishaps, “finding the drone has not been as much of a problem as finding the person who was using the drone. The registration is designed to close that loophole,” US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said last month.

As most readers of independent media understand, any time we hear the word “mandatory,” especially coming from Federal agencies, essential liberty tends to be on the chopping block and must be analyzed with utmost skepticism.

Solution?

Interestingly, a final snippet appears in the story about the woman who downed the drone with gravel – people can actually declare their property a no-fly zone … and it can be done online, for free. You can learn more at NoFlyZone.org. Perhaps doing so would at least further strengthen one’s argument for taking action against a drone hovering above their property, while leaving responsibility where it first belongs – with the individual.

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section about what should be done in this new age of drone technology.

Joe Wright’s articles can be found at ActivistPost.com


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14 Comments on "Penalties Continue For Downing Drones; FAA Seeks Mandatory Registration"

  1. All a person needs is something that jams the radio frequencies. It’s silent and invisible. The drone operator won’t know where it’s coming from. Let the damned thing come crashing to the ground. End of story.

    • YOU may have just made a couple of million dollars with this suggestion . /////////////
      Next on the agenda is to figure out the radio frequency this piece of crap is on – then go about jamming the signal . / ////////////////////////////////////////

  2. I’m assuming that the neo-con zionist Police State of what was once America…wants unfettered surveillance accesssss…. with their own armed & dangerous ‘eye-in-the-sky’ drones…& ‘guaranteed’ to be peeking thru your or your daughter’s bedroom windows when they get bored with their daily stasi routines.

  3. If the person flying this INTRUSIVE DRONE doesn’t stop when asked to do so – you have very rite to use the RADIO FREQUENCY this piece of crap is fling on – – JAM the signal – – – – – then let it fall – breaking into pieces when this piece of crap hits the ground. ////////////////////////////////////////////////

    • All them bars are what you’re going to be looking through doing things like that. Most rc aircraft use 2.4 Ghz. Cordless phones, and wireless routers use it too. Allot of the drones have a (Return To Home) feature, that uses GPS to land it, if it losses signal. What you’re talking about doing is illegal,and will land you in jail.

      • The above article indicates that the matter is not as simple as you present.
        Currently, as with many civil issues in the U.S., the punitive measures operate in reverse. Operators of these model aircraft should be limited to approved locations. Persons who use them to spy on others should be stringently punished. All residents should have the right to destroy any such privately-owned models that fly over their property below 500 ft altitude without their consent. Certainly, any that are low enough to be downed by a T-shirt or a hand-thrown rock deserve to be downed – and destroyed. Private property law will eventually reach this decision.

        • The above article says nothing about scrambling fcc radio waves being legal.I don’t approve of unsafe or intrusive use of these aircraft. Call the cop, if you think they are breaking the law. Taking these matters into your own hands, could get others hurt.

          • The question of legality is applied more basically to the misuse of these model aircraft to intrude into the privacy of others and onto their property. Having flown model airplanes since the age of 12, and acquiring my first pilot license in 1964, and currently being a member of two, RC model airplane clubs, I am very well acquainted with the issue.
            You tend to overlook the issue of the quad flyers taking the issue into their hands and endangering people in addition to violating the personal rights of others.

          • This is not just a question of privacy —- this is also a question of safety on many levels from interference with regular aircraft, to criminal or terrorist activity. As the range and flying time of these “toys” increases – as it will – they will be used by bad people to do bad things.. On top of that —- we have enough surveillance today, not sure these would be a good add to the mix. I will admit they could have some beneficial uses in controlled situations – but as usual the government is well behind the curve again.

          • Agreed. In other comments I have covered the concept more thoroughly. The quadcopters should be restricted to the flying areas of radio-controlled, model airplane clubs. When discovered outside the approved areas for flying radio-controlled model aircraft, the quadcopters should be destroyed and the owners charged with violation of FAA rules.

          • Call a cop? We live in the country. There are two officers that cover an entire district. Call a cop? That is a good one.

  4. Any one know the RADIO FREQUENCY these INTRU(CIVE BIRDS FLY ON ????????????????

  5. YOU WON’T FIND IT SILLY IF YOU FLY YOUR TOYS OVER MY PROPERTY. NOT ONLY WILL I TAKE ACTION TO BRING YOUR TOY DOWN – MY ATTORNEYS WILL TAKE ACTION AGAINST YOU FOR TRESPASSING AND ANYTHING ELSE THEY CAN COME UP WITH.

    AND YES, THE CAPS ARE FOR EMPHASIS.

    Today your toys may be an irritation and a violation of my property. Tomorrow those toys can be causing accidents, used by criminals to survey a property, used by people intending to cause harm delivering anything from a bomb to chemical or biological weapons. Fantasy? Absolutely not. And if you think so your head is further up your …… than your comment indicates. These aren’t the planes I used to fly as a kid, they are a potential menace and more.

    So chuckle if you choose —- but your laughter will cease when the consequences of these “toys” impact you or your loved ones.

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