On Easter Sunday, Brad Jones took to the skies with his DJI Inspire 2, a drone that retails at around $3,000. While Jones hoped to take pictures of the natural scenery surrounding his hometown of Oliver Springs, Tennessee, his jaunt was ultimately cut short.
As reported by Ars Technica, Jones switched the drone from video mode to taking stills in RAW format. “I flew down over my aunt’s house, and I heard a gunshot within the first three to four minutes of the flight,” said Jones. “So I sped up and flew back towards my house.”
Jones continued, “I took two pictures, then I heard the gunshot, and all of the sudden my drone started spiraling down – I’m sitting there trying to keep it aloft and there was no lift.”
A neighbor who was outside of their home at the time of the incident said to Jones, “That hit it! You just got shot! It’s going to crash!”
The drone fell, crash landing on property belonging to the Coalfield Seventh Day Adventist Church. “It didn’t hit the ground as hard as it could have,” said Jones, but there was damage caused by the crash. “When it hit, it broke the left landing gear arm, snapped the molding off the Inspire.” Otherwise, Jones said, “Everything was fine, except the left rear motor with a bullet hole in it.”
At this time, the identity of the shooter is unknown. Jones said, “I fly the same route almost every day,” and he had not heard any complaints from those nearby regarding the flights. The majority of the surrounding land is owned by members of his extended family according to Jones.
Jones did report the incident to authorities, though a suspect has yet to be officially identified.
Questions regarding drones, the concept of aerial trespassing, and privacy leave many uncertain regarding the rights of drone owners and those in the flight path. Under current federal law, firing at an aircraft is a crime, though no federal prosecutions have resulted from shooting down drones.
Speaking about drones, Rocky Davidson, a representative of the FAA’s Nashville Flights Standards District Office, confirmed, “An aircraft is an aircraft,” continuing, “We have the same rules and regulations for shooting a regular aircraft.”
However, in March, a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the pilot of a drone against William Merideth, the Kentucky man who shot the drone down. As reported by WDRB, the pilot, David Boggs, requested the court make a determination regarding whether Boggs’ drone, during a flight in July 2015, qualified legally as trespassing. Additionally, Boggs’ lawyers were seeking damages in the amount of $1,500 to repair or replace the damaged drone.
The judge dismissed the case “with prejudice,” stating that the federal court involved was not the proper venue for the case.