Penalties Continue For Downing Drones; FAA Seeks Mandatory Registration

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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.

Penalties Continue For Downing Drones FAA Seeks Mandatory Registration

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.

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.’”

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“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.”

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“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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