Man Shoots Down Neighbor’s Drone, Has To Pay For Damages

Jun 29, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

Man Shoots Down Neighbor’s Drone, Has To Pay For Damages

Jun 29, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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hexacopter

Drones are a common and controversial topic, and drones themselves sometimes make people angry.  Brett McBay, a California resident, is so passionate about drones that he instructed his son to shoot one down outside their Modesto, CA home with a shotgun.  McBay alleges that he originally thought the drone was a CIA spycopter.  However, it was a homemade hexacopter built by his neighbor’s son who was home visiting his parents.

Eric Joe was home visiting his parents over Thanksgiving last November when he decided to give wings to his creation.  After what we assume was a scene reminiscent of Frankenstein, his drone lifted off and spent three and a half minutes in the air according to Ars Technica.

Despite having his craft shot out of the sky, Joe maintained a pretty good attitude about it all.  Then again, as he said, “I didn’t want to get argumentative with a guy with a shotgun.”  Later that day, Joe sent a very courteous email toe McBay that included a list of the damaged components and their relative cost, asking that McBay pay for his son’s damage to the drone.

In their emails back and forth, McBay did offer to cover half the cost but refused to pay the full amount and ended the conversation with:

“Your facts are incorrect, I’m considering the matter now closed.”

But, this wasn’t the first time McBay had fired upon the Joe home.  As Eric detailed in one of his emails,

“Just as you asked me to give the courtesy of notifying you of my flying activities, I also ask you the courtesy of not shooting live ammunition in our direction. This is the third time discharge from your firearms has hit our house and property. The first incident left a bullet hole in the door by our garage. The second incident occurred last Thanksgiving when birdshot from your skeet shooting activities rained into our backyard. The third, of course, being what we’re currently discussing.”

After having his polite requests refused, Joe headed to small claims court where the judge awarded him an $850 judgement against McBay to cover repairs to the drone and associated court costs.

Even though Joe swears (and a judge believed him) that his drone was never actually over McBay’s property, what are people supposed to do when drones come invading?  Well, that’s probably one of the most heated points of the great drone controversy and is one that’s still being fleshed out in legislatures and governmental agencies.  In many circles, invasion of privacy and trespassing laws are trending towards defining the minimum elevation as being 500 feet about the ground.  At the same time, FAA regulations for drone and model aircraft require that they operate under a ceiling of 400 feet.  Combining the two statutes (where and when applicable) would basically eliminate all flight over private property without prior permission.

The Issue of trespassing by air is a separate issue from invasion of privacy which can be perpetrated from the land, sea, and air.  While Joe’s drone did not have a camera attached, the issue of who actually owns the airspace above any given property is one that will ultimately impact drone photographers/videographers once the law-making dust settles.

To be on the safe side, follow this simple rule:  If you wouldn’t walk onto that person’s property, don’t fly over it, either.

[via Gizmodo | Title image by Ed Schipul]

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Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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14 responses to “Man Shoots Down Neighbor’s Drone, Has To Pay For Damages”

  1. BD Poirier Avatar
    BD Poirier

    He needed a better lawyer. If it’s over your property, you could claim trespass or “lost ball” type defense.

    1. Pete Woods Avatar
      Pete Woods

      However as shown within the facts of ‘this’ case it was stated “Joe swears (and a judge believed him) that his drone was NEVER actually over McBay’s property.” So, NO they can not claim “trespass” nor “lost ball” type of defense!

    2. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      According to Joe, the GPS unit on the drone was undamaged providing evidence/proof that what he said was true.

  2. Stephen Feldstein Avatar
    Stephen Feldstein

    he should be charged with reckless display of a firearm and reckless discharge of a firearm as well

    1. Ezzy Avatar
      Ezzy

      Several counts of it, apparently.

    2. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      I totally agree… this “incident” goes way past the spycopter stupidity this guy should be criminaly charged…

  3. Eva Duve Creel Avatar
    Eva Duve Creel

    What a cool kid. Building a drone and then being so professional about it when someone shot it out of his yard because they thought it was CIA. After the house had been shot at two other times by the same neighbors. If a drone can trespass surely a bullet can too.

  4. Steven Avatar
    Steven

    Seems like a pretty positive argument for gun control… three times he’s damaged property / caused distress to his neighbours with a firearm? Seems a little trigger happy to be safely allowed to handle a dangerous weapon.

  5. Mark Harrison Avatar
    Mark Harrison

    The bigger issue is the neighbor being close enough to hit a house with a shotgun. Luckily it is just a drone and not a human. The police need to charge the parent considering he is slightly unstable to have access to weapons. He is paranoid and instructing his son to shoot at drones. Not protecting his family from immediate life threatening danger. That is pure recklessness at best. This is not about gun laws and property lines. It is careless use of a firearm and because of that improper use someone is more than likely going to get hurt/killed in the future with this persons attitude and behavior. Remove the poor operator and the gun doesn’t cause extreme situations.

  6. jason bourne Avatar
    jason bourne

    Another example of your so-called “Responsible gun owner.”

  7. Jerv Lapsley Avatar
    Jerv Lapsley

    Keon Fraites Don’t get yours shot down

  8. cbenci Avatar
    cbenci

    I’m just glad I live in Australia where strict gun control laws are enforced.

    Three times he has shot a firearm in the neighbours direction? Wow, that’s crazy.

  9. matt Avatar
    matt

    Forget about the drone, what about this maniac randomly firing a shotgun at his neighbor’s house? He should either be in jail or have a bullet put in his head. (self defense via their beloved stand-your-ground laws)

  10. ext237 Avatar
    ext237

    Here in Texas, if spent ammunition were to land on a person’s property or damage a home, there’s a reasonable expectation of return fire.