What would you do if a drone was flying in your backyard?
Brett McBay decided to have his son shoot it down with his shotgun, and now he’s being forced to pay damages.
The drone was being flown by McBay’s neighbor Eric Joe before it was blasted it to pieces. McBay explained that he thought it was a “CIA surveillance device” – thus the shotgun.
Joe insisted that according to the drone’s GPS, it was flying over his own orchard – not in McBay’s yard. He also complained of two other instances when McBay’s ammunition ended up on his side of the fence. He said the drone had no camera on it and asked for $700 in damages.
McBay refused and the case went to court:
In early 2015, [Joe] filed a case in a Stanislaus County small claims court. Late last month, the court found in his favor.
“Court finds that Mr. McBay acted unreasonably in having his son shoot the drone down regardless of whether it was over his property or not,” the Stanislaus County Court Small Claims Division found.
Joe won $850, but McBay has yet to pay. If McBay does not pay by the end of the month, Joe and his attorney told Ars that they will pursue further legal action to collect the money.
“We don’t believe that the drone was over McBay’s property—we maintain that it was briefly over the shared county access road,” said Jesse Woo, Joe’s cousin and attorney. “But even if it did, you’re only privileged to use reasonable force in defense of property. Shooting a shotgun at this thing that isn’t threatening your property isn’t reasonable.”
Despite the ruling, I have to come down on McBay’s side. At Hillsdale they recently got a drone to take pictures and video footage for advertising purposes. There I am, minding my own business walking to class, and I can hear the quiet buzzing of a little white drone overhead. It’s extremely creepy.
I can’t even imagine walking into my backyard and seeing a drone – whose origins I have no idea about. If I had a shotgun, I probably would have knocked it down as well. I certainly would have seen it as threatening my property.
Drones aren’t going away any time soon and their technology may soon be used to deliver our burritos. That being said, we need to respect standards of privacy already in place and learn how to apply them to new technology.
If trespassing with your feet is illegal, trespassing with your drone is too.