Airplane flies over a drone during the Polar Bear Plunge on Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York
Photograph by Carlo Allegri — Reuters

Hold fire! Shooting your neighbor’s drone could be a felony

Jun 29, 2015

Eric Joe, a resident of Modesto, Calif. has successfully sued his neighbor in small claims court for shooting down his drone while it was flying over Joe's family residence. He was awarded $850 for the damaged equipment, according to Motherboard. While Joe attempted to peacefully resolve the matter between the two at first, he eventually filed a lawsuit after his neighbor, Brett McBay, refused to pay for the damages.

Though it's not the first time a drone has been shot down, the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to charge anyone who has shot down a drone. However, the agency has classified drones as "aircraft," which would mean that they would be under the same restrictions as other types of aircraft. Shooting one would therefore be a federal felony.

In Joe's case, the judge immediately ruled in his favor because of McBay's admission in an email exchange of shooting the drone, adding that,"McBay acted unreasonably in having his son shoot the drone down regardless of whether it was over his property or not."

Though it's not necessarily setting a precedent, the case is significant and will likely influence future similar incidents.

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