A judge on Monday decided that William Merideth, the Kentucky, US, man who got busted for shooting down a drone that had been flying over his property, had a right to take that thing out.
The hearing, in Bullitt County, lasted just over 2 hours.
The incident happened in July.
Merideth’s sunbathing daughters had come in from the back garden to tell their father about a drone flying overhead.
After police arrested Merideth for taking the drone out with his shotgun and three blasts of Number 8 birdshot, he claimed that the drone’s operator, neighbor David Boggs, was violating his privacy by hovering his drone over Merideth’s property and spying on his family.
Police in the town of Hillview arrested Merideth and charged him with wanton endangerment and criminal mischief for firing his gun within city limits.
Telemetry from the drone has been an issue since then: the data showed that Bogg’s craft was in flight for just short of 2 minutes before it was shot down, and that it was well over 200 feet above the ground.
The video shows that the drone stops and hovers – not on Merideth’s property, but close to his property line – for about 26 seconds.
At Monday’s hearing, Merideth’s attorney asked Boggs if he chose to hover over people’s homes in the neighborhood, WDRB reports.
“No, that’s not true,” Boggs replied. He testified that flight data showed the drone was flying higher than Merideth stated.
But Judge Rebecca Ward said that since at least two witnesses could see the drone below the tree line, it was an invasion of privacy.
That means that Merideth was within his rights to shoot at the drone, Ward said:
He had a right to shoot at this drone, and I'm gonna dismiss this charge.
The judge dismissed both charges.
In August, Kentucky Rep. Diane St. Onge prefiled a drone harassment bill for the 2016 legislative session.
Her bill defines and establishes penalties for those who use drones to harass or invade others’ privacy. First offense is a warning, second offense is a Class B misdemeanor, and subsequent offenses are a Class A misdemeanor, under the legislation.
The bill dictates that a person is guilty of harassment when they hover over or land on someone’s property or when they use a drone for no legitimate purpose, to commit acts that alarm or seriously annoy someone.
Merideth said the outcome of his hearing will set a precedent for similar incidents, though he’s not advocating that everybody should go grab guns and shoot stuff out of the sky willy-nilly:
The next time something like this happens, they're gonna refer to it. Now I don't encourage people to just go out and start blasting stuff for no reason — but three times in one day, three times over the course of a year, six times total, over one property? That's not right, that's harassment.
Boggs is reportedly going to push the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office to take the case to the grand jury.
Meanwhile, in other low-flying, unmanned aerial vehicle news, a New Mexico court has found that state police crossed the Fourth Amendment line into illegal search when a police helicopter flew low enough to peek into a greenhouse to check out a marijuana growing operation – low enough to kick up dust and debris, send a neighbor’s solar panel flying, terrify neighbors, and damage their shrubbery.
Image of drone crashing courtesy of Shutterstock.com
29 comments on “Man who shot down drone had a ‘right’ to do it, says judge”
Shooting down a drone over your property is not a bad thing. However, YOU are 100% responsible for ANYTHING else damaged by your shots…so make sure your projectiles don’t strike other people or their property. Know what’s on the other side of your target.
Also, who’s responsible for any collateral damage caused by a crashing drone?
Depends on the situation. If the UAV pilot was over his own property then the shooter should be liable for all damages. This judge is off her rocker. If the UAV was over the neighbors property then the UAV pilot should be liable, and the shooting should be justified and legal.
Shotgun 1, drone 0. I know there are responsible drone operators out there but it seems there are a lot more loose nuts on the transmitter with more money than brains.
I dont think it takes much money anymore… even monoprice sells drones now.
Cheap UAV’s do not have cameras or any range. Most end up in the trash in a week or so. Any multi rotor system with a decent camera is going to run into the $1000+ range. Any UAV that could actually take a lens that had any kind of zoom capability which you would need for surveillance would be in the $5000+ range. Most UAVs come with wide angle lenses for aerial photography and are fixed and unchangeable. The $1500 range cameras use tiny sensors like a smart phone and have no real detail so with a wide angle lens it’s not going to be useful for anything but landscape photography.
Actually, quite a few drones can be fitted with any camera/lens combo one fancies as long as it is in the weight range the drone can carry.
In fact I’ve seen $750 drones fitted with $1500 DSLR body/lens combos that yield stunning results.
Agreed, we have to look at drones like guns. They can be perfectly safe in the right hands, and dangerous in the wrong hands.
I hope the grand jury charges the shooter. Paranoid people shouldn’t have guns. If his neighbor wanted to spy on his daughter he could just use a telescope or a binocular without being noticed. Drones are not good for spying, they are loud, big, and have super bright LED’s to signal where they are to small aircraft in the area. They use wide angle lenses for aerial photography which makes them useless for spying.
The word drone should not ever be used for these devices, they are UAVs just like remote controlled airplanes and helicopters. It is a hobby for aviation enthusiasts, not a military spy drone.
That said I have to add that stupid people are dangerous no matter what you put in their hands. It doesn’t matter if it is a gun or a UAV. They will misuse whatever it is. I think in this case if he was on his property the grand jury should overturn the decision since you should never fire a weapon onto someone property for any reason.
If the UAVs are just like radio controll planes and helicopters than they are not allowed in residential areas. They should only be allowed in designated flying areas just like any of the other flying hobbies. When you try to justify they are for hobiest just like radio controlled planes then keep in mind the rules that apply
Can shotguns shoot things 200 feet above the ground?
Either a shotgun can shoot 200 feet up or someone was lying about the actual height of the drone.
How accurate is drone altitude data? I don’t use GPS a lot but I have seen readings suggesting I was at 80m while I was standing on the beach. A drone 60m above me on that occasion would presumably have claimed to be 140m up.
What I’m also not sure of in this case: how well-established is it that the shotgun actually fetched down the drone? Maybe there’s a bit of post hoc ergo propter hoc going on here?
Well, they can shoot *at* them. Perhaps the shotgun was actually a cunningly digsuised HERF gun, and the drone didn’t crash from pellets but from an electromagnetic pulse 🙂
Not a bad idea Paul. I wonder how much EM energy one would require for a drone at say 500 feet?
Yes, a hunting shotgun (deer slug) can shoot 100+ yards and hit a soup can. Not that anyone can do that. But a properly experienced person can.
Yes and no. Remember the craft was at a claimed 200ft altitude, and presumably also some lateral distance – making the overall distance further than 200ft from the gun. The effective (lethal) range of #7 or #8 bird shot is probably closer to 150 ft on a bird or rabbit. However, the shot will carry maybe 300-600ft before it loses all energy and the impact of low velocity lead (or any hard object) against a fast spinning propeller could easily break the prop and cause the craft to crash. Given the shooter chose to shoot 3 times (at a hovering object), I think a 200ft altitude and total distance within 300ft sounds plausible.
No. 8 birdshot fired from a 12 gauge shotgun horizontally or at an angle slightly above horizontal travels an average maximum distance of 198 yards. The range varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, as well as from lot to lot. The higher the angle of elevation (more towards the sky), the lower this distance. Travel distance is not the same as effective distance. Just because it can go 198 yards doesn’t mean that it can pierce anything at 198 yards. At 60 yards (180 feet), a No. 8 pellet has a velocity of 590 feet per second. While that’s a far cry from the 1255 fps at the muzzle, it’s still traveling with enough energy (.70 foot-pounds) to penetrate any number of things.
Shotgun pellets spread, lose their pattern density, the further they get from the muzzle of the gun, which reduces their efficacy. However, depending on the target, pattern density become less important in taking it down. A few pellets of no. 8 birdshot from a 12 gauge shotgun can easily take down a UAV, which has plastic parts necessary to keep it in the air, at 200 feet or less.
I smell a rat. The telemetry for the drone is only two (2) minutes long. Now ask yourself this, how long would it take off, fly over someones property, for your sunbathing daughters to notice it and run and get dad, for dad to get the shotgun, target and shoot down the drone?
Lets compare that to the time it takes when your dogs start barking, you get up to see what the ruckuss is, see a coyote chasing your chickens, get the shotgun and go outside, find and shoot at the coyote – a far sight more than 2 minutes!
The operator is lying. This is what I think really happened. He’d been buzzing his drone around, flying over the girls and his battery was low so he buzzed back, changed out the pack, and then was on his way back when dad shot the done. Then he deletes all the telemetry/video from his previous flight and pretends like all the events transpired in that 2-minute window. Just how stupid does he think we are?
I think the judge was right.. this whole case smells. Kudos for LE for taking a smelly case and pushing it into a legal precedent that legalizes drone take-downs.
it was the 3rd time
You don’t drag race on the street; instead, you go to a drag race strip.
Why don’t drone enthusiasts follow the example of model airplane enthusiasts? Go to an open location to fly your drone.
Take it a step further: organize/join a club and sponsor drone events in parks, fairgrounds, rodeo arenas, etc.
It was still against the law to fire his rifle within city limits.
Shotgun, not riffle. Shotguns with any round are short-range weapons. I would be lucky to hit a coyote with a slug at 200-300′.
Shotgun shooting #8 shot which is so small that you could shoot a coyote at 50′ and he would help and run away essentially unharmed. I had a friend who was shot dove hunting at about that distance with #7 and it didn’t penetrate his coat.
I’m really surprised that at 200′ straight up he could do any damage to a drone (which again pokes holes in the drone pilots story). Any duck at that altitude would be pretty safe. I would be lucky to do any damage w/ #8 to anything 200′ away laterally, and he was shooting directly against gravity.
If he had used say a .22 rifle, then there was a chance that the bullet could “carry” a mile and still have enough energy to kill, but #8 shot? His neighbours were never in danger.
I live in the country. My neighbours regularly shoot skeet with #7 shot 600′ from my home, towards my home. I’ve never had a pellet come anywhere near my house. The officers should have understood the ballistics.
You may also kill your neighbour if you zap EMF fields around. Most of this will kill most commercial products as rad hardening is not low cost. I’m kept alive by an implant, last thing I want is people to start using EMF pulses!
It may be illegal within the city, only because the projectile isn’t contained or it’s an exigent situation. Someone breaks into your home, you can use a firearm? Sure you can, these laws are to stop random shooting into the air (same bunch of idiots) from hitting a person, not to remove items that may be required to save your own life.
This is where the US gun culture can get so out of hand. I can understand someone being very annoyed if a drone is hovering over their property regardless if someone is sun bathing or not. But to arm yourself with a shot gun and damage said drone in what appears from the story to be quite a quick series of events is crazy in my opinion.
Then you’ve got the drone owners looking for their drone with an upset shooter near by. So easy to get totally out of control.
Luckily no one was killed, but ultimately some clear laws need drawing up on this rather than varying guidelines.
I still wonder just how long the drone was near the shooters property and how quickly he made the decision to get his gun and shoot it.
It was in Bullitt County..The hearing, in Bullitt County, lasted just over 2 hours…
If a drone is hovering on top of your house for more than 2 seconds should be shot down. It should not be allowed to fly around residential areas