A gun-toting drone, tested and video taped by an 18-year-old Connecticut man apparently did not violate any existing laws, although the FAA is looking into it, according to ABC News and other reports.
In a video posted to YouTube July 10, the drone is seen hovering about five feet in the air, firing a front-mounted semi-automatic gun. The man, identified by several news outlets as engineering student Austin Haughwout, and his father said that the test took place in a remote area and that they made sure there were no people around.
FAA regulations deem drones, aka unmanned aerial vehicles, to be aircraft and prohibit the pilot of any aircraft from dropping objects from the air in a reckless or negligent manner, said Guy Haggard, a board-certified aviation attorney with GrayRobinson, Orlando, Fla. “There are legal helicopter pig hunts in remote parts of Texas, for example,” he said.
Here’s the regulation 91.15:
No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.
And regulation 91.13 states that in both the case of air navigation and other aircraft operations, no one can operate an aircraft “in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”
The key here is a lack of recklessness or negligence. Perhaps the most famous, albeit fictional, example of a rule violation had nothing to do with guns or drones. It’s the old WKRP in Cincinnati episode in which the radio station of the title sponsored a live Turkey drop as a Thanksgiving promotion.
It turns out that a turkey dropped from a helicopter does not fly as much as plummet, causing (again fictional) property damage and considerable turkey carnage. It was darkly funny, but if something like that happened in reality, the pilot would be in violation of the FAA’s current rules.
As for the Connecticut gun drone, an FAA spokesman told CNET that the agency is looking into whether the test flight, which did not break any state laws, violated any of its own regulations.
The video went viral just days after California authorities said the presence of five drones delayed firefighter response to the big North Fire near Los Angeles as well as the first FAA-approved drone delivery of medical supplies to a remote Virginia clinic.
Clearly as people experiment with more drone applications, and Amazon(AMZN), Google(GOOG)and others push for eased regulations concerning drone delivery, the FAA has its work cut out for it.
For those who want to see the drone-gun in action, here’s it is.