Drones

Kentucky Judge Rules in Favor of Shooting Down Snooping Drones

Watch where you fly.

|

Will they require hunting licenses for drone season?
Credit: y.caradec / photo on flickr

Remember that guy in Kentucky who was arrested in July for shooting down a neighbor's drone that was allegedly hovering over his property? He was charged with wanton endangerment and criminal mischief.

A judge has tossed out the charges. From NBC affiliate WAVE News:

Bullitt County Judge Rebecca Ward on Monday dismissed the case against William H. Merideth, who admitted to shooting down a drone he said was hovering over his home last July.

"I think it's credible testimony that his drone was hovering from anywhere, for two or three times over these people's property, that it was an invasion of their privacy and that they had the right to shoot this drone," Ward told the courtroom. "And I'm going to dismiss his charge."

The owner of the drone said he was "dumbfounded" at the decision and insisted he was flying the aircraft higher than Merideth claimed and did not hover over his property. He has the opportunity to appeal the judges' decision before a grand jury (and has posted what he claims is video footage of the drone's final flight). Maybe the drone's owner should just consider a civil suit to try to make Merideth pay for it if he's so sure he hadn't violated Merideth's privacy?

Anyway, this case again is being used in the story as an example that we need more "regulation" of drones, though I'm not entirely sure why. The judge ruled that the drone was over Merideth's property and his reaction was appropriate. The "controversy" here is about differing interpretations of what the actual facts are, and more regulations aren't going to fix the issue. On the other  hand, a drone this week flew into wires and shut down electricity in West Hollywood. Authorities are looking for the drone's owner.

Related: The Department of Transportation is working on plans to require people to register their drones with the federal government. It's not clear yet whether the kind of drone involved in the Kentucky case would be required to be registered under this pending plan. But then again, it also wouldn't have mattered in this case even if it had been.

(Hat tip to Christopher Mims)

Advertisement

NEXT: Sixth Circuit rejects 'heckler's veto' as to anti-Islam speech by 'Bible Believers'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If you want an unregistered drone, better buy it now with cash.

    1. 3D print it.

      1. Fuselage and propellers – yes. Everything else is an electronic component. Now, you could use a microcontroller with GPS capability but that would be a lot of software and integration.

    2. If you want an unregistered drone, better buy it now with cash.

      Meh, there are and probably always will be plenty of places to buy the ‘80% upper’ equivalent of a drone.

  2. What about surveillance blimps? Can we shoot those down?

  3. This should be pretty easy to settle: release the video footage from the drone (iirc, the cop refused to take the camera from the downed drone and instead returned it to the pilot). That should clear up whether he did indeed violate his neighbors’ privacy.

    But something tells me the footage includes video of the shooter’s sunbathing daughters, which might cramp his claim a little bit.

    1. Yeah, I find it a little odd that the video he released isn’t date/time stamped, but I don’t know how unusual that is for these drone videos.

      1. I just attach a GoPro to my drone. No date and time stamp on the video, but it is coded into the file on the SD card.

      2. It’s fairly common to have that disabled, unless the drone operator is trying to create a record of something (ie crowd sizes at a given time of day). The files containing the video would have a date/time stamp but that could have been changed after the fact.

        1. If the video is uncut and shows the guy shooting it down, I’ll accept it as real.

          1. Link in the story up there.

            1. Not seeing the actual drone footage. Seeing lots of footage from and of drones in the various WAVE tv pieces linked to. However, William Meredith comes across as reasonable and credible. Added bonus that his neighbor, Ms. Diebold, approved of his actions and felt her privacy was invaded.

          2. It’s the uncut part that’s the problem. Without SMPTE frame codes it’s probably possible to drop out a few frames without anyone being the wiser.

    2. No, Commodius, because the drone owner could have altered that footage, although there would probably be some “tells” that would clue in an expert. Should have been seized as evidence.

  4. Wait till govt. drones get shot out of the sky … I suspect judges will not be as sanguine about that as in the case when civilian drones are blasted.

    1. ^This. But I do appreciate the win for now

  5. Here’s why I’m pretty sure the drone owner is lying:

    He says the drone was well over 100 feet in the air (at one point, 200 feet). At that height, it would be very difficult to bring down with a shotgun. Even when my 12 gauge is set up for turkeys at max range, its only good out to 40 yards. For wingshooting, anything over 30 is very sketchy.

    At the height shown in the video, I don’t think any shotgun made could knock it down.

    1. If the drone fell directly down, you should be able to time the fall and calculate the altitude.

      My impression is that if that is a typical wide angle lens, it’s pretty low for cars and people to show up as much as they do. But it’s just an uninformed impression.

      1. Timing the fall: Sure if you have a stopwatch setup and handy. And also account for the drag of the drone on the way down. If some of the motors are still running that could slow its descent.

        The better drones allow you to tilt the camera up and down via a gimbal mount, so you’d have to know the exact angle at which the camera was tilted.

        The best thing to do is start photographing those from the ground and try to get something other than sky in the background to help establish height.

        1. Timing the fall: Sure if you have a stopwatch setup and handy.

          You could just go by frame rate. With video, assuming there’s pretty much anything in the shot, there’s a wealth of information that should let you get a pretty accurate height, speed, TOF, for this thing pretty much every step of the way.

          1. Good point m.c. I believe that the frame rate of HD video is 30 fps.

          2. I don’t think timing the fall would tell you much. There’s too many variables – wind deflection, drag from the drone, etc.

            1. It would give some idea. 1 second is barely single story roof height. 2 seconds is 60 feet.

      2. Take a look at the video. It shows the drone quite high when it fails. Hard (for me) to say how high, but it looks crazy out of shotgun range.

        1. Will have to look at that later. But if the lens is wide-angle it would make it look higher.

    2. Even when my 12 gauge is set up for turkeys at max range, its only good out to 40 yards.

      With a 12 gauge and full choke the maximum effective range is 40 yards. Beyond that the shot pattern spreads out until it’s more likely to wound than kill.

      But individual pellets travel much further, particularly with larger shot sizes.

      According to the charts in my Hunter Education manual maximum pellet range for No. 7 shot is over 100 yards, and for No. 2 shot is about 500 yards.

  6. …and more regulations aren’t going to fix the issue.

    BLASPHEMER!

    1. Truly. Burn the heretic! Burn him! /prog

  7. Bullitt County Judge Rebecca Ward

    These things write themselves.

    1. Bullitt County is also the home of the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot.

  8. I know the FAA has chipped away at it over the years, but isn’t 300 or 400 feet above your real estate still considered your property?

    1. I think it’s dropped to just above the shoulder blades

    2. IIRC, it’s still considered your property all the way to the edge of space (effectively 100 nm) in the sense that you can erect structures of any height. There may be some exceptions very close to airports. But, absent a structure I believe the airspace is considered public right-of-way. Not sure how low the FCC claims jurisdiction.

  9. I had a conversation with a pilot friend last weekend about the FAA regulating drones. He’s all for it, as he’s heard of numerous instances where drones have crossed through flight paths near airstrips and wreaked havoc. I’m sure he knows more about that than I do, but I’m not sure how that’s any different than RC planes or helicopters, which are currently regulated to the extent that you aren’t allowed to fly them near airstrips, etc., nor am I very confident that any regulatory measures would solve whatever alleged problem is currently caused by unregistered drones.

    Of course, something tells me the regulation angle isn’t about solving actual problems.

    1. The difference is that many drones have onboard GPS and autopilots. You can pre-program routes on the model with which I’m most familar (high-end consumer). The onboard software will not allow you to operate it within a certain distance of commercial airports.

  10. The Department of Transportation is working on plans to require people to register their drones with the federal government. It’s not clear yet whether the kind of drone involved in the Kentucky case would be required to be registered under this pending plan. But then again, it also wouldn’t have mattered in this case even if it had been.

    Which is all about fine revenue generation. If a drone brings down a plane it will be either be unregistered, spoofed or simply shredded in the crash.

    1. If a drone brings down a plane, it will probably be wearing a burkha anyway, so there will be no way to identify it.

  11. a drone this week flew into wires and shut down electricity in West Hollywood. Authorities are looking for the drone’s owner.

    WDATPDIM?

  12. and has posted what he claims is video footage of the drone’s final flight

    You mean the footage of RIGHT AFTER and RIGHT BEFORE again of the guy’s daughter and wife? Right…. he was just flying his drove over the same property, over and over again, for no reason. Probably filming butterflies I’m sure.

  13. So have any states decided on the season yet? Is the bow season different from the firearm season? Inquiring minds and all that…

  14. In several states, if you bow hunt you are required to have your name and contact info on your arrows. That would be a much simpler system than registration, and about as effective.

    The FAA will never think of it.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.