You will remember the days when kids – and some adults, enjoyed flying remote controlled air planes in the backyard, or at the park. Now, you’re more likely to see a drone flying overhead, but do you have the right to shoot it down if it’s in your own backyard?
Brett McBay’s children heard a loud motor and assumed it was coming from a motorcycle, but soon would discover it was noise coming from a drone. This particular drone looked like a helicopter and appeared to be flying low and slow over their farm in California.
Brett’s youngest son did what any boy might be tempted to do – he grabbed his pellet gun and shot down the drone. He was a good shot, and the drone crashed to the ground.
McBay says that he and his kids were afraid it was equipped with a camera and was being used by a burglar to scope out their property. It wasn’t until a bit later, as they walked to the crash site that they found out the real story.
A neighbor’s son, Eric Joe, who was home for Thanksgiving had built the helicopter from scratch and had brought it with him to fly over his parent’s 10-acre farm. When Joe explained this to McBay, Brett offered to pay for the damages.
However, later that afternoon, Joe sent McBay an email that itemized the repair costs totaling $700. McBay thought this amount was excessive and offered to split the cost with Joe. McBay maintained that he and his family live in the country for privacy, and asked that the next time Joe was going to be testing surveillance equipment over their farm to please let them know.
Joe wrote back saying that there was no camera on the piece of equipment and that GPS showed that the chopper was shot down while on Joe’s parent’s farm. He filed suit in small claims court. He asked for the full price of the drone: almost $1800.
A judge ruled that “Mr. McBay acted unreasonably in having his son shoot down the drone regardless of whether it was over his property or not.” McBay was ordered to pay $850 in damages.
Do you agree with the fine?
If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.