William Merideth’s 6-foot privacy fence didn’t keep a drone from flying over his property.
What did: his shotgun and three blasts of Number 8 birdshot.
The 47-year-old man from the US state of Kentucky was arrested on 26 July and charged with felony criminal mischief and wanton endangerment, for shooting down a $1,800 drone that was reportedly taking its maiden (and one assumes its last) voyage.
Merideth told the BBC that his daughters had come in from the back garden to tell him there was a drone flying overhead.
Merideth claims that the drone was hovering above his neighborhood, and when it moved over his property, he shot it down with his Benelli short-barrel shotgun.
Specifically, he maintains that the drone flew 20 feet over a neighbor’s house before ascending to “60 to 80 [feet] above me.”
According to local news outlet WDRB News, police say Merideth told them he’d shot the drone in mid-air and that it had crashed in a field near his home.
When Ars Technica asked him how long he observed the drone before pulling the trigger, Merideth sent this response by text message:
Not long, I watched it come in and when it stopped I took aim and fired.
But the drone’s pilot, David Boggs, has since provided Ars with a video that seemingly shows that his DJI Phantom 3 drone wasn’t nearly as close as the property owner made it out to be.
In fact, the telemetry provided by Boggs reportedly shows that his drone was in flight for barely 2 minutes before it was shot down, and that it was well over 200 feet above the ground before Merideth killed it.
Boggs claimed he was flying the drone to get pictures of a friend’s house.
But Merideth says that the aircraft did more than that:
He didn’t just fly over. If he had been moving and just kept moving, that would have been one thing - but when he come directly over our heads, and just hovered there, I felt like I had the right.
You know, when you're in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy. We don't know if he was looking at the girls. We don't know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing.
As Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar writes, the federal legal standard of how far into the air somebody’s private property rights extend is disputed.
In fact, the best case law on this issue dates back to 1946: long before drones were buzzing around our back yards (or getting in the way of firefighters, for that matter).
That’s when the Supreme Court decided, in United States v. Causby, that a North Carolina farmer had property rights up to 83 feet in the air and could thus seek compensation for military aircraft flying over his farm, disturbing his sleep and his chickens.
But as Farivar notes, that same court decision also specifically mentioned a “minimum safe altitude of flight” at 500 feet, which left anything between 83 feet and 500 feet as a legal grey area.
Fast forward to today, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has staked claims on all airspace, not just airspace above 83 or 500 feet.
From a statement that FAA spokesman Les Dorr sent to news outlets:
The FAA is responsible for the safety and management of US airspace from the ground up.
That statement was backed up by Peter Sachs, an attorney and drone advocate quoted by Ars:
There is no defined aerial trespass law. You do not own the airspace over your own property.
Dorr also noted that while the FAA disallows drones from flying over buildings, shooting them down poses a significant safety hazard:
An unmanned aircraft hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air.
The danger of mid-air collisions, in fact, is why California lawmakers recently proposed legislation that would jail and/or fine drone operators whose gadgets get in the way of emergency responders.
The proposed legislation would also exonerate those emergency responders for knocking drones out of the way.
They wouldn’t be shooting them down, though: rather, they’d be disabling the unmanned aircraft using jamming technology to prevent in-range drones from making and establishing a connection with the GPS signals and radio waves they rely on to operate.
Image of DJI Phantom 3 drone courtesy of Sarawut Chamsaeng / Shutterstock.com .
47 comments on “Man arrested for shooting down drone over his property”
In my opinion, DRONES should only be allowed to be operated by the US Military, First Responders, and those who have a need to operate them. The general public has no use for DRONES. These should be restricted by license, accreditation with Federal and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, and the US Government. All it will take is one of these to get sucked into a jet engine to cause a civilian jet liner to come down killing 300 people or more. I also have issues with businesses like Amazon using these drones for increased delivery speeds in highly dense and populated areas. In my opinion, the suspect who was arrested should be applauded.
What if I called it a “remote controlled helicopter”? That’s really what it is.. There is NOTHING fundamentally different between an RC helicopter and what has commonly come to be known as a “drone” which originally implied a military device. SOME of these R/C helicopters have a capability for autonomous flight, which blurs the line somewhat in this regard, but in this case, the pilot was actively controlling the device, within line of sight, through a manual RC transmitter.. aka: RC Helicopter. How do you justify limiting that to first responders and military?
An RC helicopter is one thing, but when you put a camera on it and invade my privacy that’s a totally different scenario. The general public is not responsible and historically take full advantage of anything they can. I justify this by demanding I keep what little privacy i still have.
Then they should be used in a controlled environment and not used to spy on what goes on .. Roc helicopters do not have cameras on them as do the drones
A need. OK lets just throw out the whole freedom thing and idea. Kneel to the powers of the government. Trust them, they are here for your safety. Do what the big all mighty government wants. You dont NEED to do that so get back in your house for you have a long day working for the all mighty government tomorrow.
What is wrong with you man? You think we are bunch of babies in the US that need to have our hands held. People have been flying remotely operated craft for almost 100 years. Heck, we might have reached the 100 year mark already. All you need are rules such as not endangering others and respecting peoples space. Follow the regulations and have a good time enjoying a hobby. Fly a bunch of spinning blades next to someone and you should be in trouble with the law for endangering others.
Just as with ANYTHING you can be reckless. Recklessness will get you in trouble with the law. So if you see recklessness, call the law and let them deal with it.
DONT say only the government should be allowed to have drones/quadcopters. This is not the country you want to live in where we are all a bunch of no freedom sissies that have to stay indoors all day that live to serve her majesty the government.
What no freedom rock do people like you crawl out from under.
So instead the rest of us just stay inside trying to avoid your complete lack of respect for privacy because your hovering over our houses and think is amusing? What is wrong with you. Take a look around sir. Recklessness is the norm and the law does little about it except apparently defend stupid. Sadly sheeple need to be herded.
I don’t see why. They’re no different than a remote control toy helicopter or airplane, which are already regulated. Privacy issues aside, there’s no reason to restrict access to only the government.
It certainly feels like there’s more to this story than we’ve heard so far.
The video from Ars shows a flight time of 02:03 seconds with the drone shot at about 01:59. The flight distance was just short of 1,500 feet. The video shows the drone stops and hovers right next to his property for about 26 seconds, so it’s there by 01:30.
If that’s correct then in less two minutes from when it took off over 1,000 feet away his daughters saw it (it was more or less flying towards them), told their dad, their dad stopped what he was doing, decided it was trespassing, laid hands on his gun and shot it. That seems quite quick.
The 26 second hover probably felt like a long time but it’s actually quite short so did he already have his gun with him, ready for a possible trespass? Or did he decide during the 26 seconds that trespassing was occurring, get his gun, load it and shoot the drone? In which case he decided quite near the beginning of the 26 seconds, at which point it hasn’t done much hovering it’s just roughly flown towards him. Or maybe he just walks around his back yard with a loaded shot gun.
When he does shoot it he hits a moving target that’s 60cm across and 270 feet away (about olympic target skeet shooting distance). Not bad.
I know people who are bothered by troublesome, drone wielding neighbours and I understand that it can be really, really annoying. Maybe there was some needle between the neighbours before this.
If not this is one hell of quick escalation. I think I’d have put in call to the neighbour first.
Mark I noticed the same thing – why did the drone hover over his neighbor’s home for almost 30 secs? Where is the video from the flight path? Was the camera aimed at ‘the world famous drone slayer’s’ backyard. Other reports say this is not the first time these drones have been flying over the neighborhood, so he was ready for the next one.
The thing is, there’s no way that drone was 270 feet from him. #8 shot would have a hard time traveling that far at all, let alone with enough force to take down a drone. So, it seems to me that either the guy was in a different place than stated, or the flight log has been falsified. Considering there are witnesses putting him right where he claims he was, the log must be the culprit.
I understand both CAA and FAA guildlines abouts Suav. The law is clear when it comes to a UAV but SUAVs are not quite the same. These are flown by amatures, or professionals who are doing work and are filming. I feel for this farmer who shot down the DJI quadcopter as I feel he is getting an unfair deal. I am a RC pilot who flies and films, I record everything on 2 devices and carry insurance. Did this person who bought the Phantom 3 have insurance? If not what if it came down and hit a toddler on the head and killed them or crashed through a car window at height. You don’t take your “Maiden” flight and film someones house. You take your first flight and ensure its save and hoovers and is stable. I am sorry but this story is lacking a lot of information to judge properly. It seems more of one persons view than a factual story. I want to see the footage before I say who is right and wrong… but in all honest fact the farmer was in the wrong.. and if he wishes to protect his property again from this use a bean bag netting cartridge than number 8 shot.
” disabling the unmanned aircraft using jamming technology to prevent in-range drones from making and establishing a connection with the GPS signals and radio waves they rely on to operate.”
Make this technology affordably available to the general public, and they’ll put down their shotguns.
They just wont be able to use the GPS on their phones until they leave the house….
You’d also have to make it legal, since it is currently illegal in the States for regular citizens to jam any type of signal.
That would also jam all communications.
Including cell phones, wireless hotspots, wifi, and portable phones, etc.
Basically anything that uses a signal would be blocked.
Jamming technology works by drowning out the signal.. It overpowers it. And in most places in the US, they are illegal.
Which is why it’s illegal for the general public: You could potentially block off emergency calls.
Which makes them fall out of the sky and could potentially kill someone.
Just take like 10 seconds and think things through eh?
And.. how is that technology going to only jam the GPS signals to these toy helicopters? When your local medevac helicopter gets hit by a GPS jammer, or someone decides it would be fun to jam all the GPS systems on a segment of highway, what’s your solution going to be? How about when someone jams GPS near a real airport and takes down an airliner (same kids who are now shining lasers in pilots eyes)? GPS jamming in the public is definitely a BAD idea.
solution: take out the kids who are shining the lasers
It seems to me that disabling a drone would have the same possibly serious consequences as the operator losing control, the drone otherwise malfunctioning or being shot down — someone could get hurt. All in all, it is clear that there is irresponsible use of drones.
I don’t know where the FAA and the drone lawyer get their information, but Common Law and case law say that you own the airspace above your property to infinity. Regulations by a government bureaucracy do not change that. I have lived in a neighborhood near an airport and that authority never advanced the position that they owned the airspace above our houses and actually altered flight paths after we complained.
The idea that anyone with a “permit” can fly their drones anywhere they choose with no regard for a citizen’s privacy or property rights is antithetical to the concepts of freedom and liberty that we as a people strive for. As for me, I will have my shotgun at the ready for any aerial trespass.
A fence can only be just so high and 6 ft should make a definite statement. What goes on behind closed doors is nobodies business else we would be living in glass houses. Keep your nose out unless permission granted.
Obviously no one told you Kentucky was the parton saint of shooting stuff.
One nutter shoots another nutters drone. Dontch love it.
“disabling the unmanned aircraft using jamming technology …”
And how is this less likely to cause a (potentially dangerous) crash than shooting the thing down?
Because there aren’t bullets flying.
To be fair…it was apparently birdshot. Not exactly “bullets flying.”
“They wouldn’t be shooting them down, though: rather, they’d be disabling the unmanned aircraft using jamming technology to prevent in-range drones from making and establishing a connection with the GPS signals and radio waves they rely on to operate.”
Disabling a drone in-flight will have exactly the same effect as shooting one down; it will turn into a ballistic object and eventually hit the ground. Gravity, being impartial, will not care where or on whom, the crash will occur. So surely disabling one will be hardly less dangerous than shooting one down?
How many lumens would it take to blind a drones camera in broad daylight? Seems like a decent alternative to protect your privacy, as long as you’re not affecting manned aircraft in the process.
More power to this guy! I hope he is not even convicted of a misdemeanor. Drones in private hands are a nuisance and should never have been allowed to be privately owned and flown for recreation and/or other (you fill in the blanks) purposes. They should be reserved for military, law enforcement, and other public safety use only.
The people flying these drones are just as self entitled as the glass holes. This isn’t the first time a drone has been shot down and it wont be the last, just like it wasn’t just one assault on a glass hole. I’m sure this will become common enough that the government will have to step in and eventually ban the drones. If nothing else for the fear of the bullets coming back down. There is no legitimate use for these things other than to be intrusive. Hats off to the people raising arms and taking aim.
Wow… You people spend too much time watching Fox news. UAVs are getting bad press because it’s interesting and interesting=more money for Newsies. Next is… You backed your car into my driveway to turn around so I had the right to give it both barrels!!! Lighten up for chrissake…
People have a tendency to get worked up when individuals with unknown intent film them in a location of expected relative privacy.
Let’s take you car and driveway analogy and make it more appropriate to this situation:
Someone gets out of their car, opens the fence to your backyard, and watches your family; but just for 30 seconds. Should I tell you to “lighten up” about it?
Typical response from an Obama apologist who doesn’t obey our Constitution or laws. What does “Christ’ have to do with your asinine comment?
If he wants to see his neighborhood from the air, there is Google Earth. If he wants to hover over a neighbor’s daughters, the shotgun works for me.
Would electric fences help with bringing down drones? . Or are there laws in place that would prohibit us from doing that? And what about Tesla coils or even really strong magnets?
Just recently I saw old photos of the barrage balloons that were stationed over London during the Blitz to snag planes and rockets.
Yay Merideth… you are one of many who will eventually buy back the privacy we lost years ago. Thanks for having the courage of your convictions.
Perhaps a more effective way to deal with the owner of the drone (based on the info on the article of it appearing to be spying on his daughters) would be to have reported him as a paedophile. That would probably dissuade him from repeating the action.
There is more to the story. But if I read the article correctly, the person piloting the drone said he was trying to get photos of a friends house? I mean without specifics, that’s a weak claim in this instance.
My House, My Family, My Privacy. You trespass on my ground, over my ground, under my ground, you or your stupid tinker toy drone get shot!
It seems to me that some basic rules (laws) and also some common courtesy and responsibility, would avoid these types of confrontations.
Professional real estate firms use camera equipped flying devices to take pictures of exclusive homes. Of course, they usually tell the neighbours what they plan on doing, first.
These young people were careless. There were 4 of them, I am told, out having a fine old time. Mayhaps the guy with the shotgun over-reacted, but what else could he do? There would be no obvious indication who was flying the thing, what its capabilities would be, where the pilots might be (Up to over a mile away is possible, I hear.), why they would be doing it. He could have thrown rocks or sticks, but then, may not have had one handy. He could have called the cops, but with response times as bad as they are….. (If they come at all….) And besides, what would they do? Shoot it down?
Maybe these are just not city toys. Out in the country, where you have miles of space to fly…. different story.
Filming your friend’s house, ok. Filming your neighbour’s daughters sunbathing : Not ok.
Too bad they did not announce they were doing this in advance. He (the shotgun guy) seems like the touchy type (though I quite sympathize) who would have made sure the neighbours knew his rights on privacy … well in advance!
Drones flying over my “off grid” farm will be shot down and completely destroyed (crushed to bits). I do not care who or what they BELONG to. My privacy being invaded by a Drone is no different than someone breaking into my home and going through my desk. Camera tech is so extremely high tech at this point that Drones over my farm are considered spying on me to violate my privacy and stalk me. I moved 50 miles from a city for a reason and enjoy my privacy and solitude. If someone does not want to lose their expensive toy, they had better keep it away from my property.
Looks like Mr. David Boggs made a beeline directly to Mr. William Merideth’s property, and is using his friend next door as an excuse to
look at teenage girls. What a pervert. I like the bean bag idea to knock down an offending drone, and think it should be noted that good liability or homeowners insurance be mandatory for drone owners. Whether knocked down by someone protecting their privacy or just plain mechanical failure, it is reasonable to assume at some time a innocent
bystander may be injured. But as far as quick escalation, damned right,
he was protecting his children who became alarmed.
Considering that the FAA would like to take control of everything, they do not govern complete air rights over private property and have recently released a statement that private aircraf, including drones should be safe at 400 feet above private property as comercial aircraft is limited yo 500 feet. I am also in the south and we can petty much peck anything off on land or air within 85 foot with a shotgun. I believe the man had every right to bring down the drone as trespassing or invasion of private property.
What you all fail to mention is just because the drone is in the air that it’s camera is pointed at you. At 190 feet or more. You on the ground can not tell which way the camera is facing but because it is in the air near my home it must be spying on me. What your that interesting that everyone has to know what your doing. Get over yourself. It may be pointed at the house directly behind your property which may be the home of the guy flying the drone. He may be trying to get some aerial footage of his home to post to his family or use in the sale of his house. Before you all open your big yaps take the time to check out some drone flight videos on youtube or some othe site. Where the video show the altitude of the drone, You will see for that height a perv as a lot of you are saying will not get a very good view of what he is suppose to be perving at.
I hope he shoots them all. the police are the stupid ones in this case,turn the man loose and give him some more shells.