A Kentucky man was recently arrested for shooting down a drone that trespassed in the air space over his property.
It was a Sunday afternoon before William H. Merideth’s daughter notified him that a drone was hovering over the neighbours’ garden. It stayed hovering in one neighbor’s garden before their sunbathing 16 year old daughter waved and it started to move away. After confirming his daughter’s report, Merideth went inside to grab his shotgun.
Within a minute or so, the drone migrated into Merideth’s property. Blasting the flying object from the sky. “I didn’t shoot across the road, I didn’t shoot across my neighbor’s fences, I shot directly into the air,” he said.
Drone owner threatens Merideth before arrest
The owner of the drone, along with three other men, quickly arrived at the scene. They asked Merideth, “Are you the son of a bitch that shot my drone?” After Merideth confirmed that he shot the drone, the men started approaching him. “’If you cross my sidewalk, there’s gonna be another shooting,” he added.
The men backed off. Police arrived to arrest Merideth for first degree criminal act and first degree endangerment. He was released from the County Detention Center the next day.
The owner told police that the drone cost over $1,800 and claimed that he was using it to get pictures of his neighbour’s house. Nevertheless, the 16-year-old daughter of Merideth’s neighbour said the drone was just hovering with a camera as she sunbathed by the pool.
“I just think you should have privacy in your own backyard,” she said..
Merideth agrees and has no apologies for his actions. He also said that law enforcement officials told him in private that they agreed with what he did.
“Now, if I’d have had a .22 rifle, I should have gone to jail for that,” said Merideth, a responsible gun owner. “The diameter of those things are going to come down with enough force to hurt somebody. Number 8 birdshot is not. Number 8 is the size of a pinhead. The bottom line is that it’s a right to privacy issue and defending my property issue.”
Drone owner rights versus private property rights
Merideth’s shotgun triggered an interesting legal debate on how to balance the rights of drone owners with the right to privacy and self defence.
Historically, common law has stated that whoever owns a piece of land also owns an indefinite amount of airspace above the land. This ancient land law no longer applies in an era of airplanes, however. In the United States, public airspace begins at 500 ft., meaning Merideth had the right to use, and make use of, the airspace above his house.
The drone trespassed private property, since Merideth had a private property fence, meant to ensure his privacy for the enjoyment of his property, and the drone was hovering above his land. Therefore, Merideth had every right to protect himself, his property and his privacy from the drone by force.
Nevertheless, the drone owner could try to sue Meredith for property damage. The reason you can’t shoot a person who accidentally wanders onto your property is that the harm likely outweighs the threat to your privacy. Whenever a car parks in a reserved space, for example, the owner of the space only has the right to tow, rather than destroy, the vehicle.
The problem with this reasoning is that it does not convey to drones, which cannot be removed in the same way that a car or person can be removed. In addition, drones pose more of a threat than a trespassing vehicle, since a drone likely carries a camera and may even hold weapons.
In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration states that drones are not permitted to fly over buildings, and that shooting a drone is a safety hazard to people on the ground. Furthermore, the drone crashed in his yard and did not harm anyone in the surrounding area.
“He didn’t just fly over,” he said. “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,” said Merideth.
Merideth was unjustly arrested for his actions. The case adds to an unfortunate number of reports where drone owner rights trump private property rights.
Source: Glitch news