A Hillview, Kentucky man was arrested for shooting down a drone worth $1,800. He says he was protecting his property and the privacy of his daughters, as the drone was hovering over them in his backyard.
Is it an invasion of privacy for someone to fly a personal drone over someone else's property without that person's permission?
I'd say yes. There's no way to tell what the intentions are of the anonymous person manning the drone. Is this person flying the drone for fun? Is this person gathering intel to rob you later on? Is this person hoping to catch compromising photos of you?
In the State of Kentucky, there's something known as the Castle law. Essentially, if "a person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person's dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence," you then have a right to protect yourself, even shoot the person dead, if you are in fear of your life.
However, this law does not yet apply to drones or drown owners.
There's still a lot of controversy surrounding drones, including how drones should be used. Watch this video about the history of drones and how easily the good intentions of drones can be abused:
This past weekend, 47-year-old William H. Merideth, a Hillview Kentucky homeowner, shot down a drone that was hovering over his daughters in his backyard.
Merideth claimed the drone "didn’t just fly over" his property, but "hovered."
"If he had been moving and just kept moving, that would have been one thing," he said. "But when he come directly over our heads, and just hovered there, I felt like I had the right. When you’re in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy."
Merideth was also concerned about the well-being of his teenage daughters and the safety of his property: "We don't know if he was looking at the girls. We don’t know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing."
In this particular case, the drone owner claims his actions weren't nefarious; he was flying it to get pictures of a friend's house. The drone owner is expecting Merideth to pay $1,800 in damages, which accounts for the full cost of the drone.
WDRB News reports that after Merideth shot the drone, police arrived on the scene to arrest and charge Merideth with first degree criminal mischief and first degree wanton endangerment. He was booked into the Bullitt County Detention Center, and released on Monday. Merideth is a legal gun owner and has an open carry license.
Hillview Police detective Charles McWhirter told WDRB there is a city ordinance against firing a gun in the city, and Merideth did fire his gun in the air.
"I didn't shoot across the road, I didn't shoot across my neighbor's fences, I shot directly into the air," Merideth explained. "They took me to jail...because I fired the shotgun into the air."
Merideth says he's not apologizing for shooting down the drone and he plans on pursuing legal action against the owners.
Fortune Magazine speculates on the outcome of Merideth's case:
For Meredith, his legal fate will likely turn on the facts of the case. If the drone was hovering over a 16-year-old girl in her private pool, as one neighbor alleged, he might get traction...and even succeed in a legal action (which he claims to be pursuing) against the drone owners. But if he shot down the drone for no good reason, he could be tagged with $1800 in damages and a criminal record instead.
According to the Academy of Model Aeronautics safety code, unmanned aircraft like drones "may not be flown in a careless or reckless manner" and drones must be launched "at least 100 feet downwind of spectators."
However, the FAA says that shooting drones poses a significant safety hazard.
"An unmanned aircraft hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air," said FAA spokesman Les Dorr.
Luckily, Merideth has witnesses that can attest to the drone's flying pattern: "[The police] didn’t confiscate the drone. They gave the drone back to the individuals...They didn’t take the SIM card out of it…but we’ve got…five houses here that everyone saw it – they saw what happened, including the neighbors that were sitting in their patio when he flew down low enough to see under the patio."
Where do you stand on the issue of responsible drone ownership? Was William Merideth justified in shooting down the drone? Sound off below!
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.
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