Drone Self-Defense and the Law

Last month, a Kentucky man shot down a drone that was hovering near his backyard.

WDRB News reported that the camera drone’s owners soon showed up at the home of the shooter, William H. Merideth: “Four guys came over to confront me about it, and I happened to be armed, so that changed their minds,” Merideth said. “They asked me, ‘Are you the S-O-B that shot my drone?’ and I said, ‘Yes I am,'” he said. “I had my 40 mm Glock on me and they started toward me and I told them, ‘If you cross my sidewalk, there’s gonna be another shooting.'” Police charged Meredith with criminal mischief and wanton endangerment.

This is a trend. People have shot down drones in southern New Jersey and rural California as well. It’s illegal, and they get arrested for it.

Technology changes everything. Specifically, it upends long-standing societal balances around issues like security and privacy. When a capability becomes possible, or cheaper, or more common, the changes can be far-reaching. Rebalancing security and privacy after technology changes capabilities can be very difficult, and take years. And we’re not very good at it.

The security threats from drones are real, and the government is taking them seriously. In January, a man lost control of his drone, which crashed on the White House lawn. In May, another man was arrested for trying to fly his drone over the White House fence, and another last week for flying a drone into the stadium where the U.S. Open was taking place.

Drones have attempted to deliver drugs to prisons in Maryland, Ohio and South Carolina ­so far.

There have been many near-misses between drones and airplanes. Many people have written about the possible terrorist uses of drones.

Defenses are being developed. Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing sell anti-drone laser weapons. One company sells shotgun shells specifically designed to shoot down drones.

Other companies are working on technologies to detect and disable them safely. Some of those technologies were used to provide security at this year’s Boston Marathon.

Law enforcement can deploy these technologies, but under current law it’s illegal to shoot down a drone, even if it’s hovering above your own property. In our society, you’re generally not allowed to take the law into your own hands. You’re expected to call the police and let them deal with it.

There’s an alternate theory, though, from law professor Michael Froomkin. He argues that self-defense should be permissible against drones simply because you don’t know their capabilities. We know, for example, that people have mounted guns on drones, which means they could pose a threat to life. Note that this legal theory has not been tested in court.

Increasingly, government is regulating drones and drone flights both at the state level and by the FAA. There are proposals to require that drones have an identifiable transponder, or no-fly zones programmed into the drone software.

Still, a large number of security issues remain unresolved. How do we feel about drones with long-range listening devices, for example? Or drones hovering outside our property and photographing us through our windows?

What’s going on is that drones have changed how we think about security and privacy within our homes, by removing the protections we used to get from fences and walls. Of course, being spied on and shot at from above is nothing new, but access to those technologies was expensive and largely the purview of governments and some corporations. Drones put these capabilities into the hands of hobbyists, and we don’t know what to do about it.

The issues around drones will get worse as we move from remotely piloted aircraft to true drones: aircraft that operate autonomously from a computer program. For the first time, autonomous robots—­with ever-increasing intelligence and capabilities at an ever-decreasing cost—­will have access to public spaces. This will create serious problems for society, because our legal system is largely based on deterring human miscreants rather than their proxies.

Our desire to shoot down a drone hovering nearby is understandable, given its potential threat. Society’s need for people not to take the law into their own hands­—and especially not to fire guns into the air­—is also understandable. These two positions are increasingly coming into conflict, and will require increasing government regulation to sort out. But more importantly, we need to rethink our assumptions of security and privacy in a world of autonomous drones, long-range cameras, face recognition, and the myriad other technologies that are increasingly in the hands of everyone.

This essay previously appeared on CNN.com.

Posted on September 11, 2015 at 6:45 AM79 Comments


Jakub Narębski September 11, 2015 7:22 AM

On one hand in the Kentucky incident the drone was allegedly shot with birdshot, so it was safe (not “wanton endangerment”).

On the other hand the drone was allegedly (telemetry from drone owners) only passing through… though IIRC also violating FAA guidelines.

Delt0r September 11, 2015 7:43 AM

What frequencies are they all running on? ISM bands have no guarantee of non interference. You don’t even need a jammer, just your own “drone transmitters” with say a little boost, or directional antenna.

Otherwise quite harmless things would work if they are low.. like string on a balloon or something similar.

lazlo September 11, 2015 7:46 AM

I don’t know where the typo came from, but I’m fairly sure Glock doesn’t (nor does anyone else) make a 40 mm handgun, and if they did, it would be terrifying for both the target and the person pulling the trigger. (There are 40mm grenade launchers, but I seriously doubt the homeowner had one)

jdgalt September 11, 2015 8:34 AM

If it flies low near my house, I’m taking a drone down too. But I’ll just throw a plain ol’ rock at it, rather than use a firearm in the city limits.

GregW September 11, 2015 8:34 AM

Since there is not a distinction yet between drones and general “aircraft” in US law, it is not just shooting down drones thats illegal, any form of interference, including electromagnetic and optical laser with “aircraft” is illegal.

It might be harder to attribute or prosecute/prove the origin of a jamming attack though.

paul September 11, 2015 8:43 AM

I wonder whether actions that would otherwise be lawful, e.g. a curtain of barrage balloons at the property line, tethered well below human-piloted airspace, would start being considered illegal if intended to hamper remotely-piloted vehicles at low altitude.

Alan Kaminsky September 11, 2015 8:53 AM

From the paper by lawyers Michael Froomkin and Zak Colangelo titled “Self-Defense Against Robots and Drones”:

Our proposed solutions to these problems [with what one is legally allowed to do to defend against robots and drones] begin with the observation that most of these problems spring from some kind of uncertainty about, or relating to, robots. We therefore suggest measures to reduce those uncertainties, including forbidding weaponized robots, requiring lights and other markings that would announce a robot’s capabilities, creating a legal presumption that trespassing drones are dangerous to privacy if they do not bear visible indicia of harmlessness, requiring drone operators to file flight plans if they plan to overfly private property or even public property in urban areas, and mandating serial numbers that would uniquely identify the robot’s owner.

  1. If weaponized drones are outlawed, only outlaws will possess weaponized drones.
  2. I can picture it: A yellow light on the drone if it has a camera, a red light on the drone if it has a weapon, etc. Think a paparazzo or a burglar is going to keep those lights on? Right.
  3. So the drone dangles a banner that says “I’m harmless, don’t shoot me!” If the guy in Kentucky with the shotgun had seen that, of course, he would have put down the gun, smiled, waved, and said, “Have a nice day!”
  4. Flight plans — Yes, every drone hobbyist is going to file one of those every time she plays with her drone, just like model airplane and model rocket enthusiasts do. Not.
  5. Serial numbers — States would love this. Every drone would have to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles and carry a license plate, just like cars. Revenue would pour into the states’ coffers. Budget deficits would be wiped out.

Please forgive my sarcasm.

Anoni September 11, 2015 8:55 AM

@lazio: 40 caliber, on the other hand, is quite common.

@article: We like to think police will protect us. That is simply not the case. Someone needs to review Warren v. District of Columbia. E.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_v._District_of_Columbia

I’ve seen it first hand myself. This fellow followed a friend, a woman, home and forced his way into her house. Police took half an hour to respond. In the middle of a city! She called me, I was 20 minutes away, and I beat the police there without running red lights or sirens or anything.

So yeah, you do have to protect yourself. You call the police afterwards to pick up the pieces.


All that said, Guns are a touchy situation in the US. You are much better off taking apart a microwave and using it as a HERF weapon. (High Energy Radio Frequency) It will take just about anything out. Drones. Cars. Cell phones. People. Be careful where you aim it though. Watch out for reflections! A high powered microwave emitter is a lot more dangerous than a gun. But it’s also a lot harder to prove.

Captain Ned September 11, 2015 9:06 AM

@lazlo (& Anoni):

40mm is the perfect caliber for dealing with airborne nuisances, especially when it comes in the form of the ageless Bofors AAA gun.

Who? September 11, 2015 9:48 AM

@lazlo, Anoni and Captain Ned.

Shooting a drone with a 40mm bullet would mean its owner would need to travel to another state to recover the rests of the flying device.

r September 11, 2015 10:06 AM

The thought of people who let “40mm Glock” pass uncorrected having any say in the matter is a bit unsettling.

Betan Testravosky September 11, 2015 10:10 AM

In my community, two 6th grade girls came up with what they laughingly called SparkleDroneNet. No shooting. No lasers. Just another drone with basically a lightweight sparkly fishing net suspended from it. The girls got tired of a number drones buzzing and hanging around their suburban backyard at a second story height when they’d go swimming. So their fathers chipped in and got them a drone. After some practice, they got good at swooping on on offending drones and snagging them via their rotors in the net. So far, they have snagged 15 drones in just their backyard, but only those which are below the second story of their house. Drones that overstay their welcome above their house they merely buzz and chase off with their drone. The drones they snag however – they keep, their father (a criminal attorney) returns only the go pro cameras to any owners who show up.

David Leppik September 11, 2015 10:12 AM

If a peeping tom looks through your window, you have a good chance of being able to identify the person. If a drone hovers outside your window, it’s going to take a lot of investigation to identify the owner.

Right now drones have the patina of high technology, and people tend to focus on the positives. As more drunks get their hands on drones, that is likely to change. If somebody’s tree falls on your house, there’s no legal question that you have every right to use all means to protect your life and safety. If somebody threatens you with an inanimate object, destroying that inanimate object is clearly self-defense. I have a hard time seeing how any judge could rule that FAA regulations take precedence. But we’ll see.

This summer a drone hovered directly over a neighborhood party I was at. It was cool at first, and then creepy. I expected the owner to come out and brag about the new toy, but when that didn’t happen, it was extra creepy.

Lorenzo September 11, 2015 10:17 AM

I wonder what would happen, legally speaking, if an autonomous drone disables another drone. Am I, as the autonomous drone programmer, directly responsible? It’s hard to clearly determine the exact parameters of a drone’s behaviour, especially if it’s programmed by using neural networks or via ‘evolving’ strategies.

On a side note, while the US is often pioneering the technological field, the US-centric legal interpretation of shooting done is frankly meaningless for the remaining 95.52% of the world population. Mainly because the rest of the world doesn’t have weapons at hand to shoot flying objects. I’d be more curious to see a study of the legal consequences of disabling a drone you spot hovering out of your window. For example, how would German law react if I snatch the drone and turn it off? Or if I throw a stone at it? How about China? How about Japan? etc.

The Infidel September 11, 2015 10:22 AM

Me got gun.
Me see drone.
Me shoot drone.

Mr. Schneier’s echo chamber is not exaclty reeking with intelligence here. But this was to be expected. As there was not one paragraph in Mr. Schneir’s post about the positive things drones can do for humanity. Why not? This was published in CNN and they didn’t ask for some balance? Wow.

What about pinpoint pesticide delivery?
What about forest fire fighting assists?
What about package delivery to your backyard?
What about monitoring of power lines?
What about animal studies (Oh wait, yesterday’s post was all about how animals absolutely hate drones. Makes you wonder why biologists are so keen on them. Unless of course, your ideology prevents you from considering the other side of an issue).

My perdiction:

Drones promise to bring humanity so much benefit that all this bombastic talk of “Me got gun” will be a distant un-fond memory 10 years from now. The mere prattle of children. Soon enough the prosectution of those shooting down drones will render this red-neck hobby unsustainable. They are like horsemen and coachmen of yore trying to stop the automobile industry with threats. Vanity…

All this is not to say that Mr. Schneir’s post does not ask some fine questions. It does. It just fails hopelessly on being a balanced account.

PaulT September 11, 2015 10:33 AM

Unfortunately, a lot of the reaction to drones is the standard media driven fear. The drone in Kentucky, for example, had not been hovering over his property for a while at extremely low altitude like what was claimed. It was several hundred feet up, and just had crossed his property line when shot. Destruction of property is not a proportional response to this type of behavior. The story of a lawyer confiscating drones on his property, while entertaining, is highly illegal. The young girls catching 15 drones in their backyard seems like the type of story I expect to be chainmailed by my mother any day now; false and playing into common fears.

Secondly, consumer drones are an extremely bad way to get surveillance on anyone. They sound like a flying lawnmower, and smaller models have fairly poor cameras. Go pros, while fun for action shots, do not have a zoom lens. Someone a half mile away with a good dslr would get better quality shots, without the fear of being easily noticed. Anyone wanting to know who owns a “drone” they see overhead doesn’t have to wait long, as the flight times are low enough and they are conspicuous enough that you can easily follow them back to their origin (with the exception of inhospitable terrain in between, rare in small towns.)

Lastly, while drones are spreading, the underlying technology and concept has been around for decades. “Drones” used by by the military have much more in common with the RC plane flown by old men in the park then consumer level multicopters. Flying remote control planes has been a hobby for some time, and they can easily carry a camera. They often are much quieter then a multicopter as well, meaning that someone would be much less likely to notice them overhead. Lastly, they have significantly longer flight times and as a result, range. Where are the RC plane outrage and fear stories?

Rick Burris September 11, 2015 10:34 AM

I’m not sure what the laws are elsewhere, but in Utah (Tooele specifically) they tell you when you buy a house that you own a certain amount of the airspace over it. That’s mostly because they want to point out that there may be smoke or other nasty things that pass above your airspace and there is nothing you can do about it, but it does say that to a certain extent, that “property” is yours. I would think that would allow anyone with a similar setup to take out a drone in their airspace.

It wouldn’t protect you from reckless endangerment laws certainly, but if you wanted to throw a rock at it as another person suggested, I don’t know why you wouldn’t be able to.

Jim September 11, 2015 10:47 AM

Remotely operated aircraft have been around for decades. Users would generally fly them in designated areas and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow enthuists. Drones are being bought and used by many that have no interest in any aspect of flight other that to surveil and intrude. I don’t expect this abuse to go unchecked. I quite sure that the “someone is abusing therefor no one will be allowed” rule to kick in at some point and without a powerful lobby the problem should be solved.

Erik September 11, 2015 10:52 AM

Regulating private airspace won’t really do much to address the physical security or privacy issues – when you’re high up you attack or spy on people from well outside of their property lines. Prohibitionist tactics will work about as well as the war on drugs, the war on terror, etc. Governments “declaring war” on something tends to create more of it these days (poverty, illiteracy, I could go on). In a world of easily obtained and programmed computer kits, 3D-printed frames, etc., the idea of registering all or even most drones is a pipe dream. The skill level required to build one oneself from scratch is already low and dropping like a rock.

I think the reasonably peaceful, nonviolent, but still (hopefully?) effective solution will involve jamming the visual / infrared sensing capabilities of drones that are trying to see into your property. This prevents spying or aiming. They could still attack blindly or via some other aiming mechanism, but that’s such a remote (pun intended) threat for now that I’m not worried about it. Then you just have to deal with swarms of drones, stealth drones, etc…

PaulT September 11, 2015 10:53 AM

Is there a citation for “drones are being bought and used by many that have no interest in any aspect of flight other that to surveil and intrude.” other than personal fears?

I have no doubt that some people do buy them for that reason, but I doubt it is a majority of them. I doubt it is even applicable to most of them. My personal experience with people buying them has been a motivation along the lines of “this looks like a fun toy. I can fly around with it.”

AJWM September 11, 2015 10:55 AM

@The Infidel:

If your drone is delivering pesticides to your field or (with the company’s authorization) inspecting power lines, or etc, I have no problem with it.

If it’s violating MY airspace (which extends upwards over my property to something short of about 400′ AGL, per legal precedent), and not merely transiting it from point A to point B, then there’s a problem. How I deal with that problem is irrelevant, so long as it isn’t endangering anyone else.

Hmm, maybe falconry will make a comeback.


Last I heard the claims about altitude/airspeed of the Kentucky drone were not proven. The flight path info the drone pilot posted came (originally) from position log which may have been edited, and the full unedited real-time video was not available. The timing from shot impact to ground impact didn’t agree with “several hundred feet” altitude, but neither did it agree with a mere 10-20 feet.

As for collecting drones on your property — if it’s on your property, and it appears abandoned (no operator in line of sight), it’s pretty much yours. If somebody parked a car on your lawn, you might not be able to claim it as property, but you are well within your rights to have it towed.

RC planes are still a lot harder to fly than the multirotors that folks are calling drones (I’ve flown both), and AFAIK there aren’t any first-person viewpoint RC planes (except military drones) but that’s a common feature of quadcopters (as is computerized attitude hold and GPS homing). The latter makes them much easier to fly by people more interested in the voyeruistic aspect than the flying aspect. (Vertical take-off and landing of copters also makes it much easier to find a launch/landing spot. Traditional RC helicopters (without autostabilization), though, are even harder to fly than RC planes.)

John B September 11, 2015 10:58 AM

“The security threats from drones are real, and the government is taking them seriously.”

Really? Remotely controlled craft have been around since 1898, other than military usage when has a drone been used as a weapon?

This is what I do not like about modern media, it’s less “informative” than it is instructive.

Meaning “Where do you think crazy people get their ideas of killing and destruction from?”
The TV and other media.

SJ September 11, 2015 11:10 AM


Good eye.

“40mm Glock” is a kind of error often found in the news. Apparently, news writers and editors have lots of confusion between calibers common as decimal-inches (0.357, 0.38, 0.40, 0.44, 0.45 in pistols) and calibers common as mm (9mm or 10mm in pistols).

Various gun manufacturers also use “model numbers” in confusing ways.

Kind of reminds me of the average TV news person trying to describe internet security, actually.

Gerard van Vooren September 11, 2015 11:32 AM

@ Anoni,

All that said, Guns are a touchy situation in the US. You are much better off taking
apart a microwave and using it as a HERF weapon. (High Energy Radio Frequency)

Or a 5 dollar sling shot.

Arclight September 11, 2015 11:38 AM

I think a lot of the “uncertainty about new technology” issues go away if we replace “drone controversy” with “bad photography etiquette.” Someone hovering over your back yard at <50m with a DSLR on a quad-copter is no different than someone else extending a 15m pole with a professional camera into your space.

As a species, we are evolved to see being watched as a hostile and threatening act. We are programmed to not feel peaceful when a tiger or a competing tribe is purposefully hanging out observing us going out about business.

It’s also a manifestation of “bad RC etiquette” to do this. The RC aircraft crowd has been peacefully coexisting with their neighbors for the last 50 years. The democratization of the technology (multi-rotors and computer-assisted planes are much easier to fly) has brought in a whole new crowd of “gadget people” instead of “flying people” to the hobby.

While I don’t think firing a shotgun in an urban area is an appropriate response, I also feel its inappropriate to make the claim that harassing behavior by drone operators should be given any deference or that they are “an aircraft” in the same sense that a manned vehicle is. The main issue is that there is virtually zero chance that they will be identified and warned or punished for bad behavior unless they crash on your property.

With regards to the gentleman who shot down the drone with a shotgun: Our readers who are not acquainted with bird hunting might want to know that a shotgun has an effective range of about 50m. It can be a more, but not a lot if the pellets are to have enough power to down a duck or similar. It’s very doubtful that the drone in question could have been brought down if it was 100m total distance, or moving quickly. My guess is that there were “mutual issues” in play here and that it was probably hovering for some time at a low altitude.

I’m not defending this man’s actions (the poor operation of the drone was harassment, not an immediate threat to life) but I’m also not sure what could be done. Maybe he could have driven around trying to find the operators. Perhaps he could have filed a police report if he were able to identify them. We do need to respect that the anonymity of remote operation does create an unusual power imbalance however.


Arclight September 11, 2015 11:40 AM

Should have read:

I think a lot of the “uncertainty about new technology” issues go away if we replace “drone controversy” with “bad photography etiquette.” Someone hovering over your back yard at 50m with a DSLR-equipped quad rotor is no different than a 15m pole being extended over your fence with professional camera.

Peter Pearson September 11, 2015 12:21 PM

Bruce’s repeated use of “taking the law into your own hands” makes it sound as if somebody’s getting lynched. I think this unnecessarily inflammatory phrasing results from a hypertrophied sense that life’s annoyances should be addressed by filling out the appropriate governmental paperwork and waiting for the duly authorized, diligent, and thoughtful governmental authorities to solve the problem. If I’m sitting on a bus, and a 10-year-old boy two seats behind me is amusing himself by tickling the back of my neck with a peacock feather, and I respond by snatching the feather, am I taking the law into my own hands? I would submit to you that this is an appropriate analogy to the Kentucky drone incident.

TascoBlossom September 11, 2015 12:45 PM

Drone technology rapidly improving

One thing drones cannot do well is avoid obstacles, the Qualcomm board will help improve avoidance but not enough for wires.

Wires are a serious problem with any aircraft. Slower moving aircraft such as helicopters can use IR laser scanners and vision systems that detect the laser reflections off the wire, process the reflections and warn the pilot. But anything like that is probably out of reach for drones for a long time.

So, instead of trying to shoot the drones down or jam their radio, canopies of fine wires may provide a unique defense without interfering with the law.

Birds must be taken into consideration when designing the canopy.

David Shayer September 11, 2015 12:53 PM

Drones will be miniaturized, like all electronic products. The military is already working on insect sized drones, there will be commercial versions soon enough. When something the size of a fly, that looks like a fly, buzzes through your house, taking pictures and recording audio without your knowledge or permission, how will you stop it? You certainly won’t blast it with a shotgun. When they cost $1/drone, someone may send 100 of them into your home.

Potter September 11, 2015 12:57 PM

It may be illegal for people to just shoot down drones that violate their airspace/property/privacy, and it may be in society’s overarching interest for these people to instead resorting to calling the police, but that this is reasonable hinges on the assumption that the police are actually able to put a stop to the problem. Civilized society is preferable to “wild west” situations, but in the absence of the former, you cannot expect people to simply stand by and do nothing when their rights (constitutional or natural) are are being violated.

Put another way, the state cannot claim a monopoly on solving a problem if it cannot, in fact, solve the problem. When we have laws that keep drones – or more precisely their operators – in check, we can expect people to go to the police instead of taking matters into their own hand. Until then? If the state cannot defend people, the state has to live with people defending themselves.

I don’t know if I’d automatically feel threatened by a drone above my property; depending on the specifics of the situation, I might, or I might not. But if I did, I would definitely neutralize it, because if I called the police instead, a) they wouldn’t care, and b) if they did, and if they showed up 30 minutes later, the drone would be long gone.

So while what e.g. Meredith did may not have been legal, it was definitely the right thing to do, and those whose drone was shot down have only themselves to blame, and should be glad that it was just a drone, ultimately a relatively inexpensive, easily-replaced toy.

brian crabs September 11, 2015 1:31 PM

MY airspace … about 400′ AGL

Ah, that’s the solution! Reduce it to about 50′ by FAA diktat, then the drone shootings will be clearly illegal.

JG September 11, 2015 1:34 PM

Hi Bruce!

As a multirotor hobbyist, I think a few things really need to be said.

First off, that guy who shot down a drone in Kentucky wholly misrepresented the event. Video and telemetry data showed that it was 300ft in the air and only crossed over his property line for 2 seconds. But as you know, fear is the mind killer. Fabricating a story about how it was hovering a dozen feet above his sunbathing daughter plays into the unrealistic fears people have of hobby drones.

Second, and I’m again talking about hobby drones, the surveillance capabilities of consumer-level stuff is laughable. They are loud, you’re not sneaking up on anyone, as evidenced by that Kentucky guy spotting it from hundreds of feet away. The video capabilities are generally of the GoPro variety, which is great for landscape and close-up shots, but fully lack any sort of zoom function required for detail at more than a few dozen feet, much less than the many hundreds of feet required to be out of earshot. For reference, here is a drone with a GoPro or similar camera who discovered a man sunbathing on top of a wind turbine. Notice how close the drone gets while still being almost useless for detail. The basic rule would be that if you can make out a person’s face, you’re well within rock throwing range.

People are mistaking the capabilities of military and government surveillance drones and applying them to toys. Something like a Phantom or Solo has a payload of a few hundred grams, usually just enough to carry that GoPro and still have enough lift to stay in the air. They have a fly time measured in minutes, speed characteristics comparable to a bicycle, and they’re louder than a vacuum cleaner.

I suggest anyone who isn’t familiar with the hobby watch this video of a hobbyist discussing drones in a city council meeting.

Apologies for the long comment.

Thunderbird September 11, 2015 2:34 PM

Re the post about the drone-hunting sixth graders: “SparkleDroneNet,” amazingly there are NO Google matches for that string. I suspect we just witnessed someone trying to create an urban legend. I expect that it will show up in Wikipedia with a citation of Bruce’s blog pretty soon. By the way, the girls are “friends” at the start of the post, and apparently sisters at the end.

Alan Kaminsky September 11, 2015 2:48 PM

Re: Airspace

My university is 4 kilometers away from a major metropolitan airport. We were recently informed by our administration that the FAA has prohibited ALL outdoor flying of drones anywhere on campus. Airspace limit: 0 feet. Our gee-whiz-let’s-use-the-latest-gadget-in-our-classes faculty are mighty peeved about this.

Flying drones indoors is allowed. I guess the faculty will have to confine themselves to flying the drones in the ice arena or the field house, the only buildings with any large indoor space. So what happens when a drone lab takes place at the same time as a hockey game …

CallMeLateForSupper September 11, 2015 2:58 PM

“companies are working on technologies to detect and disable them safely”

Drone detection technology already exists. At least one company has installed their stuff on the property of their corporate clients. The system I read about relies on identifying drones by the noise they make. Think “shotgun mic.” + filters. Sounded very not-ready-for-prime-time to me.

I suspect that a technology to safely disable drones in an urban environment is very problematic.

Hunne September 11, 2015 4:16 PM

A few weeks ago a drone operator used his machine to harass people on a public beach in San Diego, CA. One of the victims knocked down the drone by throwing a wadded-up T-shirt at it.* The operator persuaded a police officer to arrest that victim(!)– but he was released when the City Attorney’s office realized that he had committed no crime. Sadly, we have not heard yet of the drone operator’s arrest.

The comments to the Volokh Conspiracy article linked above explore the moral and legal questions related to the incident in interesting ways and considerable depth.

It seems clear that drone operators are not sufficiently deterred from bad behavior by fear of social or legal sanctions. Socially, they are faceless and anonymous. That tempts them to do things which they might recognize as improper if they were personally present at the scene. Drone operators rely on both their anonymity and (as our host Bruce Schneier points out) the undeveloped state of the law to escape legal sanctions for harassing people with RPV’s.

Small RPV’s represent a physical danger to nearby people even if they are not weaponized. They move rapidly and unpredictably (even by the operator, thanks to wind, radio interference, and other vagaries) in three dimensions. At common law simply throwing a frisbee or baseball in the direction of someone (who is not a willing participant in sport) is an assault, even if the assailant later claims he “threw to miss.” Hovering or flying a drone near someone without an invitation is also an assault, or at best negligent endangerment. Self-help (e.g., knocking down a harassing drone) is justified because the danger is too immediate to await the arrival of the police and the police themselves are largely impotent against a remote, unknown drone operator.

Too many drone operators misuse their devices because they, the operators, sitting comfortably at a distance from their flying machines, feel quite safe– not just from their RPV’s, but from sanctions against bad behavior. These operators are incapable of empathizing with their victims, who feel– and objectively are– threatened by nearby drones.

It’s no argument to say that drone cameras suck. To the extent that is true, it simply motivates operators to “move in for a better view” thus increasing the danger to their victims on the ground. It’s also irrelevant that a peeping tom with a telephoto lens can take pictures from far away. There is no danger a peeping tom’s telephoto lens will smack someone in the face from many yards away (and terrestrial peeping toms can commonly be defeated by fences, unlike drones).

A $1,800 Turbo Ace Matrix-G prosumer drone weighs about nine pounds (4 Kg) and goes up to 60mph (100 Km/h) in windless conditions. It is a lethal weapon by itself. Even child’s-toy drones can weight several ounces and move at 20mph easily; getting one in the face is a serious business.

Only a near-suicidal on-board pilot of a manned aircraft would even risk, much less attempt, getting close to a person on the ground, but drone operators do it all the time because they (again, unlike their victims) are in no physical danger at all. Drone operators enjoy their birdlike perspective and the euphoria of whizzing around (their mental viewpoint though their actual bodies remain at rest). They scorn their helpless victims, laughing at the way they scowl, or wave the drone away angrily, or try to hide under their beach umbrellas.

Although it is perfectly proper and legal for people to knock down harassing drones, it isn’t enough. Cities should purchase anti-drone laser cannon and deploy them to protect public parks and beaches, and when the price falls, neighborhood airspace generally. Any drone operating without an approved flight plan should be forcibly disabled on the same principle and authority that stray dogs are impounded.

*If the T-shirt-thrower had used a shotgun the drone operator probably would have claimed his device was “300 feet away.” Then the fools and mendacious drone operators who repeat the obvious (to anyone who knows anything about shotguns) lie that the Kentucky drone was “300 feet away” would repeat a similar lie about the San Diego drone.

albert September 11, 2015 4:27 PM

Re:Government regulation of drones: Some examples from other areas: 1.Drugs, 2.Guns, 3.Banks, how am I doing so far?
Police enforcement: Things in the sky that can’t be caught, and no proof of ownership; yeah, that’s gonna work.
Jamming, though illegal, can be directed at the camera channels. It shouldn’t be wide band. It’s safer than shot guns, and results in no property damage.
As far as I’m concerned, a drone hovering over me on my property is the same as a person standing in front of me, a fact that some haven’t begun to grasp. I hope all of you drone supporters get harassed by drones someday. Maybe you’ll come to your senses. Or maybe you’ll just ‘take it’.
There’s no accountability for drone abusers. And no punishment.
I’m hearing a lot of talk (mostly BS) about the Kentucky incident, but I’m not seeing any evidence. Where’s the video showing the guy shooting the drone down?
. .. . .. o

Matt September 11, 2015 4:28 PM

Drones are aircraft.

Apply all the same laws and rules to drones that apply to aircraft (minus the ones that make no sense because drones do not have people on board them). You need to be licensed to operate one. You can’t mount weapons on them without a special permit. You can’t fly them over restricted airspace. They must have transponders. Whatever the rules are.

Chris September 11, 2015 6:42 PM

I was about to type up a post defending the guy in Kentucky, but after reading Potter’s post, I realized Potter is far more eloquent than I could be – so I’ll suffice it to say that until the law catches up with the reality of drones, then people will increasingly take matters into their own hands. From Potter:

“Put another way, the state cannot claim a monopoly on solving a problem if it cannot, in fact, solve the problem. “

Mike September 11, 2015 6:55 PM

+AJWM – there are LOTS of first-person view RC airplanes! They almost certainly predated “drones” with FPV. However, their pilots tend to be experienced RC pilots, and don’t do the things that attract the attention of the press. After all, the real difference between a “drone” and a “remote control model aircraft” is that the operator of the drone has done something stupid enough for the press to notice.

+PaulT the outrage is against “drones” because that word has emotional overtones. For instance, the press uses it because they expect a lot more people to click “Drone crashes on white house lawn” than will click “Toy aircraft crashes on white house lawn”. Similarly, people who want them outlawed, or want to shoot them, want to invoke that emotional response. Those of us in who just enjoy flying them tend to call them “model aircraft” or “multirotors” or “quadcopters” or – well, you get the idea.

Like most model aviators, I initially objected to the press using the term “drone” to describe model aircraft, then recalled the last time they abused a word in a way I objected to (I’m a hacker – by which I mean someone who makes computer technology do things that would surprise their creator, not someone who breaks into computers), realized this was a losing battle, and embraced the term. So much so that I now refer to my remotely piloted vehicles that float rather than fly as “drones”.

Henrik September 11, 2015 7:07 PM

@Gerard van Vooren
Slingshots are boring, microwave emitters not so much.

@Hunne: a series of excellent points. The problem seems to be less one of regulation and more one of enforcement, along with a little education of those concerned.

Mark J. September 11, 2015 10:53 PM

“Our desire to shoot down a drone hovering nearby is understandable, given its potential threat.”

Not so much, Bruce. Shooting down a drone “hovering nearby” is like shooting the guy with telephoto lens “standing nearby.” If it’s not a direct threat to your life, and so far that has never been the case with a drone unless you’re in the wrong country, shooting at anything when you have no control over the resulting path of the bullet is definitely not “understandable.”

Most of my neighbors own guns and several shoot at squirrels from their back decks. They have no clue, nor do they care, where the bullets go when they miss the squirrels. But I can see them claiming they felt “threatened” by a drone “hovering nearby.” Sad irony.


Thank you for some common sense comments here. I work with several filmmakers and photographers who use drones to create amazing videos. I know a half dozen drone owners. To the best of my knowledge not one of them has ever used a drone to do any harm or spy on anyone.

I will acknowledge that there is no shortage of idiots who give drone owners a bad name by misusing drones, like the morons who interfered with firefighting operations out west a few weeks ago. And I fear the day is coming when some careless fool with a high flying drone will cause a fatal aircraft accident. Should that happen, the response will be swift and brutal. Drones will be outlawed and banned. As drones are notoriously fragile, the ones in public hands will soon be useless. That is why we need to develop and enforce sensible laws, regulations, and licensing procedures now, not after a disaster happens.

Sadly, that last point is but a pipe dream.

cf September 12, 2015 12:25 AM

@David Shayer

When something the size of a fly, that looks like a fly, buzzes through your house, taking pictures and recording audio without your knowledge or permission, how will you stop it?

I’ll order my mentat to activate the house shields.

John September 12, 2015 12:27 AM

When a distracted driver causes an accident do we blame the car? Do we pass laws to bad cars? Do we write articles about how cars are evil and a threat to all life on the planet? No, we make laws that punish distracted drivers.

Just because someone makes a bad decision involving a drone doesn’t make the drone an evil creation that needs to be destroyed.

Everyone here saying that jamming the drone is the best way to go isn’t really thinking it through, If the person flying it suddenly loses video or control the drone isn’t just going to land gently in the hand of the person jamming it, it’s going to move unpredictably and probably crash into something.

Also, everyone that is worried about drones taking their privacy away but doesn’t know the name Edward Snowden isn’t really worried about privacy, they just want to shoot down a drone.

rgaff September 12, 2015 12:50 AM

@ John

Those newfangled contraptions some call “cars” definitely should be banned… they scare the horses! Even causing bodily harm when they buck their riders off!

Mic Channel September 12, 2015 4:30 AM

PaulT above is talking sense.

If you disable a several-kilogramme quad copter / octocopter, then it’s a potentially lethal falling object. Even the tiny ones are going to do a lot of damage — imagine someone dropping just a small a GoPro camera on your head from a 3rd floor window. Now argue about liability and contributory negligence after turning an annoying situation into a lethal incident.

Yes, there are plenty of antisocial quad copter owners who are just idiots who’ve finally found a computer intelligent enough to make up for their lack of flying skills and social skills. But let’s not fall into the hysterical urban-myth generate+perpetuate trap.
@Betan Testravosky – nice try, we almost fell for your well-crafted sparkly urban myth. Girls in bikinis with rich lawyer dads using ninja flying skillz and pink sparkly nets scoring a bounty of 15 quad copters. All you need is law enforcement tracing the drone operator’s secret lair and discovering a basement full of kidnapped women who hadn’t kicked out the rear tail-lights from inside the trunk and you’ve got the perfect story.

BTW – in the UK a professional operator is CAA-licensed (the UK’s FAA) and would get into trouble for flying <50m of the public or anyone not under their control. Flying RPV, just like real flying, is something where safety is paramount. Oh, and no-one in the UK thinks “me got gun, me strong with gun, me use gun so me stronger than the annoying git with quadcopter”.

Mic Channel September 12, 2015 4:33 AM

==oops, truncated comment

BTW – in the UK a professional operator is CAA-licensed (the UK’s FAA) and would get into trouble for flying <50m of the public or anyone not under their control. Flying RPV, just like real flying, is something where safety is paramount. Oh, and no-one in the UK thinks “me got gun, me strong with gun, me use gun so me stronger than the annoying git with quadcopter”.

Mic Channel September 12, 2015 4:37 AM

==double oops, I used < and didn’t preview.

BTW – in the UK a professional operator is CAA-licensed (the UK’s FAA) and would get into trouble for flying <50m of the public or anyone not under their control. Flying RPV, just like real flying, is something where safety is paramount. Oh, and no-one in the UK thinks “me got gun, me strong with gun, me use gun so me stronger than the annoying git with quadcopter”.

Jiadran September 12, 2015 5:44 AM

I think your analogy does not apply. If a distracted driver causes an accident, usually the driver is at risk in person, the driver can be seen and thus can be identified, and normally the car will have a number plate to identify at least the owner. The problem with drones operated by irresponsible operators is that the people being harassed with it cannot identify the operator nor the owner.

I was personally harassed by a drone. The operator probably wanted to take some panoramic pictures. The drone flew for more than 30 minutes, repeatedly and at various heights over our property. When we tracked him down and tried to talk to him, he left before we could reach him. Until that moment I had no idea how strongly I could feel about this subject, so unless you have been harassed by a drone, you might simply not be able to understand the emotion that some people have about this subject.

Before we tracked down the operator we actually called the police, who told us just that the law was not clear and that they could not do anything. They suggested waiting a couple of minutes, as the toy drones would not last more than maybe 10 minutes. From what I saw of the drone (I took a couple of pictures), it was not a toy and the operator probably had replacement batteries as well. The camera hanging from the drone, while not being a DLSR was considerably larger than a Go Pro.

So, John, you as a responsible drone operator, what do you suggest that people should do in such a situation? What if you (or your children) wanted to sunbathe nude in your private property protected by fences? Do you suggest that we as the general population just accept that anyone can use a drone to fly over our property? If we (you and I) were to agree that there are some bad apples, what should be done? I think that this is the topic discussed in this blog. And yes, the bad apples have a negative influence on the image of drones in general. So this is something that you would have to address within the drone community, except, as discussed here, one of the problems is that there is no real community as the technology is anonymous and affordable by anyone.

John, my intention was not to pick on you specifically. I addressed you as a representative of the pro drone group who seems to not understand why people get heated up about the topic. I chose you because yours was one of the last posts, so it’s more likely you will come back and maybe respond.

Wael September 12, 2015 5:49 AM

@David Shayer,

Drones will be miniaturized

that has already happened

how will you stop it?

Easy! You stop them this way

Someone may send 100 of them into your home

It’s only a matter of time before that happens. The next step would be to equip these insects with a payload of nanites that can be delivered via a mosquito bite, for example, to terminate a subject. Then this will be followed by insects that fight other enemy insects and nanites that counter the malicious ones, I.e: the battleground will be the human body 🙂

Dan September 12, 2015 10:43 AM

@JG: How do you shoot something as small as a drone that’s 300′ up in the air with a shotgun? That’s like trying to hit something smaller than a raccoon on a 15th story balcony from ground level, only it’s moving rapidly. For that matter, how do you hit anything at a 300′ range with a shotgun? How do you shoot anything accurately in 2 seconds? It takes longer than that to grab and load your gun. This isn’t passing the smell test.

Clive Robinson September 12, 2015 11:02 AM

As should be obvious to anyone who cares to think about it for a while, all unmanned aerial vehicles are more than capable of causing injury, and there have been cases of injury to people even when the UAV was being used professionaly at a professional event.

Few hobbyists have sufficient engineering knowledge or records to know when and why apparently working parts should be replaced (ie preventative maintenance). Thus hobbyist UAV usage is going to have a proportionatly worse safety record than other aerial vehicles.

Thus we should perhaps have legislation limiting hobbyist UAV use to restricted areas and like unlicensed wireless equipment restricted to within safe limits on a property. Such limits can be determined by glide / stall angle and prevailing weather conditions. Thus if the glide angle is a drop of 1 unit for every 10 units of ground track then then for a property 100 hundred units across at the smalest dimention would have a mximum operating hight of 10 units at the center line descending to zero at the property edges. Further a maximum hight of say 10 meters irespective of the property width.

Whilst this will not prevent all possible accidents it should certainly reduce third party accidents potential significantly.

Further there is talk about “RC Planes -v- Drones” that is what is in effect lift by fixed wing -v- horizontal rotator. It should be pointed out that aircraft that use fixed wings to get lift unlike horizontal rotator have a minimum speed to maintain lift. Thus fixed wing are considerably less likely to stay for any length above a typical domestic property even though they are likely to be quieter than horizontal rotato aircraft with a similar payload capacity.

Thus for those with a mind to view into private spaces in a voyeuristic manner at a low level, a fixed wing aircraft is by no means their first choice. Which might well go a long way to explain the difference in view point by traditional “RC hobbyists” and the “nouveau voyeuristic hobbysts”.

albert September 12, 2015 12:03 PM

It takes a lot of skill to fly RC aircraft, almost most none to fly a drone, because the drone is actually ‘flown’ by the computer (as in most fly-by-wire aircraft). All the operator does is ‘aim’ it. I doubt if anyone could fly a drone accurately by manually controlling each rotor. The learning curve would be too steep for most douchebags to handle. Anyone remember the RC helicopters from years back? They were bitch to fly, even for experienced RC modelers. They did not become a fad. The big problem with technology is that it makes too many things too easy. Cars are too easy to drive. Incapable people are no longer weeded out by driving tests (apparently, folks here think they have a Constituional right to drive a car). Now, they want cars that drive themselves! Built by auto companies! Another Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment to contemplate. Do we have hobby drones that can fly autonomously yet?
@Mic Channel,
What percentage of drone offences get prosecuted in the UK? What are the punishments?
I asked for the video. Deafening silence. Maybe it’ll come out in the trial….
I don’t really care if ‘hobby drones’ are made illegal. They serve no useful purpose and are very easy to abuse. We have enough BS to deal with already, we don’t need our skies swarming* with drones.
*see my previous post.
. .. . .. o

CabbageControl September 12, 2015 12:05 PM

Eruvin are symbolic wire enclosures built by the Jews to allow them to perform certain activities outside of their homes during Shabbat.
I believe the best solution would be a law to allow property owners that have symbolically delimited a piece of airspace with ribbons colored in a standardized way or wire with such ribbons (droneruv?) to destroy and confiscate drones that intentionally trespass this airspace using any legal means at their disposal. Taking a photograph first in order to prove the trespass would be a good idea.
Drones flying higher than the wires would not be affected by this law.

ianf September 12, 2015 2:02 PM

@ CabbageControl,

Yes, let’s agree on civilian drone overflight rules patterned on by you proposed Jewish orthodox Shabbat customs… just what the antisemites were/are claiming all along, the ZOG RULES US ALL.

E. g. DRONE-FREE ZONE delineates an involatile airspace over private property with ribbons colored in a standardized manner (or, because men of certain age suffer various forms of daltonism, inability to distinguish between pairs of colors, even better, make these colored ribbons WITH different stripes, just like numbered trams’ plates etc used to be adorned with in the 1920s, when analfabetism was still rife in Europe). Also, long as we are talking perpendicular stripes, why not turn them into BARCODES that the autonomous drones could detect, scan, interpret & OBEY! where the VERBOTEN airspaces end or begin?

John September 13, 2015 10:02 AM

I understand that people don’t like to be watched (or rather think they are being watched) and that is valid, especially when from something they don’t understand.
What other people have to understand is that they aren’t there for a malicious purpose, they may be uneducated about what the rules and regulations are (But if it was a custom build and not the white Phantom model then he probably knew them), but they aren’t there to take your picture. The most likely reason for him leaving before you could talk to him is that he was afraid. There are stories of people being attacked for flying these, people that fly in a public spaces like parks are regularly accused of being perverts or of spying on the people on the ground. I personally have been accused of spying, being a pervert, and have had people call the cops on me multiple times.
The reason his camera looked larger than a go-pro is that it was probably on a stabilized gimbal which would make the camera look much larger.

If you or your children want to sunbathe nude in your back yard and a helicopter flies low over your property what are you going to do? What about a google earth imaging plane? You clearly noticed the drone, the fact that you did proves that they don’t work for spying. A camera on a stick will be a much better way to get pictures of you in your back yard.

There is a drone community and whenever someone does something stupid like fly over a wildfire the people there get pretty pissed because it’s one step closer to government overregulation of an advancing technology.

I don’t know the best way to deal with the situation if you are worried about someone flying over your house, but for a professional custom built for endurance drone 30 minutes is pretty much the max flight time with no payload. Maybe just wait it out? or maybe try to find the owner before you call the cops. If you do, and approach them in a friendly manner they will most likely explain exactly what they are doing and answer any other questions you may have.

JFR September 13, 2015 5:14 PM

On July 1, 2015 the Florida “Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act” took effect. It is worth a look at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0900-0999/0934/Sections/0934.50.html

Except in limited circumstances it is now unlawful for individuals or businesses to fly drones over private property in Florida for the purpose of surveillance, and even law enforcement agencies need to obtain a warrant to do so. The law states:

“A person, a state agency, or a political subdivision as defined in s. 11.45 may not use a drone equipped with an imaging device to record an image of privately owned real property or of the owner, tenant, occupant, invitee, or licensee of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image in violation of such person’s reasonable expectation of privacy without his or her written consent. For purposes of this section, a person is presumed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy on his or her privately owned real property if he or she is not observable by persons located at ground level in a place where they have a legal right to be, regardless of whether he or she is observable from the air with the use of a drone.”

Having once observed an individual fly a drone with a camera up and down a condo building, causing it to hover and presumably film through various tenants’ windows, I’m glad to see the Florida legislature providing a framework to deal with people who don’t seem to be able to follow principles of common decency on their own.

latsot September 14, 2015 6:08 AM

I’m in favour of people taking using drones responsibly and being held responsible for what their drones do. But as usual, enforcing rules about where people and things can go requires surveillance. Which in this case requires transponders.

That’s a worrying idea because there are plenty of legitimate reasons for people to use drones anonymously. The most obvious reason is looking for bad behaviour by police at demonstrations or other gatherings.

If transponders were mandatory, a ban on drones flying over such events would surely follow.

Clive Robinson September 14, 2015 10:58 AM

@ latsot,

That’s a worrying idea because there are plenty of legitimate reasons for people to use drones anonymously. The most obvious reason is looking for bad behaviour by police at demonstrations or other gatherings.

The thing is you can turn the argument on it’s head. Think of it as the inverse of “If crypto is oulawed only outlaws will use crypto”, thus “If civilians are baned fron using drones, all drones must be in use by state actors”. Therefore you can thus assume that “Drone present is state actor with a high probability of being used for state surveillance”, thus an investment in “drone detection” will clue people into what the state is upto.

This has already happend with light aircraft with transponders, people have seen “odd flight tracks” and by “following the money” backwards unmasked organisations involved with state level surveillance.

Drones can be detected by “radiant energy” systems in a number of ways we are familiar with which is reflection, transmission –or lack there of– and absorbtion spectra. Also a side effect of “cross modulation” the radiant energy, it’s not realy a secret as to the issue of lack of stealth in rotating lift and propulsion systems, likewise detecting vortex shedding. Basicaly the disturbance to the permiability causes the radiant energy to be “modulated” which can be “direct conversion” demodulated and recovered. The resulting signal uniquely identifies each drone, but at lower fidelity identifies the particular type (think of it as the equivalent of “sonar identification of submarines”). As drones have a fairly reliable size / payload capacity curve the detectability of drones has a near constant curve. That is small drones with a small surface area have to operate close in, larger drones with a larger surface area can operate at a greater distance, but because of the square law nature you almost get a “constant” detection factor…

latsot September 14, 2015 5:59 PM


I think you misunderstand. I’m saying that mandatory transponders are worrying because they will make it more risky for civilians to watch what the police are up to, especially in situations such as protests. Which is where we need to watch the police the most.

If the police can determine who’s flying drones in a particular area, they have all the tools they need to enforce a ban on flying drones in those areas where they might be up to especially bad stuff. I think that might be the opposite of what we want.

I don’t doubt for a moment that the only thing stopping authorities from already declaring ad-hoc no-fly zones for drones is that they can’t easily enforce them. I expect some already do even though they can’t easily enforce them. I expect police officers working for virtually every authority will already ask or demand that you stop flying drones over protests if they happen to catch you, whether it’s legal for them to do so or not.

We might need no-fly zones, but the ability to easily track drones will surely lead to ad-hoc no-fly zones which will make it much harder to see what our police are up to.

All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t squander our rights for (what might be) an illusion of personal privacy. Allow police to hunt down that damn thing that’s been hovering over your garden and you might lose your ability to film police acting like maniacs.

Currently, I think, our priorities are all over the place. Our mileage varies depending on the situation. We don’t know what scares us most, but more importantly we don’t know what should scare us most. I certainly don’t know.

Mic Channel September 16, 2015 4:42 AM

Albert, 2012-09-12 12:03;
dunno about percentages of UK offences being prosecuted: seems there aren’t many offences and most of the drone news is non-UK.
But this (BBCnews) just came up the other day and seems pretty much what you’d expect given the circumstances and the lack of injury (this time): Man fined after flying drones over Premier League stadiums

…was originally accused of 17 breaches of the Air Navigation Order but some charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence.
…fined £1,800 at Magistrates’ Court.
…accused by [police] of flying the aircraft unmanned and “failing to maintain direct visual contact”.

Dave X September 16, 2015 8:58 AM

Combining the war on drugs with drones and a need for protection how about this movie plot using the three together. Seems like an easy attack to use a drone to plant drugs on someone’s property and then call the police on them. A coke bag in someone’s locked pool enclosure.

What can be delivered by drone that you wouldn’t want discovered? And how can one protect yourself from that attack?

Kevin September 16, 2015 11:34 AM

Kind of sad to see such a one-sided article.

Sure a kid put a pistol on a UAV. It has no real precision. HE did it to try it. It takes a real military drone to have real weapons that are worth doing anything with.

When an article dips into large military unmanned aircraft and then dips into tiny consumer UAVs, I question the intent of the author. There is a lot of fear mongering. Then there is just a large amount of pure ignorance, like the woman in the apartment. She didn’t look to see if the camera was even facing her, it just was there, and she freaked out. She doesn’t freak out about the other people in the apartments across the street that may have cameras facing her direction… because she can’t see them. But a UAV is obvious. Ultimately, THAT is why they are the boogie man. You can see them. Then people start figuring out what they would do with them, in their dark fantasies… and then they transfer those thoughts to the UAV operator, who is just having fun, and not doing anything nefarious.

Sure, there are ways that they can be exploited, but for voyerism, they suck. A good camera with a good lens is both cheaper and more effective.

They are loud, not a good platform for eavesdropping… you know, unless you point out military drone swarms… which are MILITARY.

UAVs take amazing photos. They make crop observations far cheaper. A Helicopter is too expensive to do regular flights, while a UAV is inexpensive enough to add to any farmer’s toolshed.

People need to get over being so ignorant about UAVs. They really are pretty awesome.

the_punnisher September 18, 2015 5:45 PM

1)I am on a no-fly zone registry.

2)Like dealing with out of state hunters, my property is POSTED NO TRESPASSING. That give me the legal right to defend my property. As long as the projectile does not leave the property, it is okay to discharge a weapon. What is also little known,is that you own a wedge both BELOW AND ABOVE your property, the FAA only LEASES your property when a N registered flys through your personal airspace. If you sign away your mineral rights, then YOU DO NOT OWN THEM AND MINING can force you from your land!

3) An inexpensive ( for me, anyway ) solution: get a copper tube and end cap. cut a precise set of holes that match the output the output ” throat ” of a standard microwave magnetron. pull or make the magnetron and add a cooled cover for the power supply and magnetron. By selecting the right copper tube and cutting it to the right length, you should be able to knock out a drone from the sky and remove the evidence. ” Drone? what drone? You WILL have to get a SEARCH WARRANT to search MY PROPERTY. You have 10 Seconds to get off my property RIGHT NOW.

the_punnisher September 18, 2015 7:51 PM

Oh, I forgot:

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Medium sized with a basic camera ( like the one discussed previously ) 76USD Free shipping From China


The MAX SETUP: Six Rotor Heavy Lift model, Gyro stabilized, camera, handheld controller, single button ” Come Back ” feature.

Cost 269USD at this time, Free shipping from China. Spare rotors available.

Oh, the latest indoor bug you can own:


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Keep your Phantom 3 fully under your command while accessing the most-used features right on the included remote controller.Giving you full control at nearly triple the range of previous Phantom models – up to 1.2 miles (2km) – is the built-in DJI Lightbridge, which
handles all communication to and from your Phantom 3.This crucial piece of your flight experience has been engineered specifically for flying camera platforms, making every flight easy, safe, and intuitive
Unmatched Propulsion

Each motor has the power and precision needed to give you the best flight experience possible. Brushless motors work with lightning-fast ESCs to make your Phantom 3 fast, agile, and responsive.
Vision Positioning

Fly indoors, low to the ground, and in GPS-free areas with Vision Positioning technology. Visual and ultrasonic sensors scan the ground beneath your Phantom 3 for patterns, enabling it to identify its position and move accurately.

Worry-Free Autopilot

Automatic elements of your Phantom 3`s intelligent flight system help you fly and are available at the touch of a button

SDK Development

Have a new idea that requires a view from the sky?
Develop your own app by using the DJI Software Development Kit. The Phantom 3 platform is fully open and allows you to program apps

Clive Robinson October 9, 2015 2:20 PM

@ qr45,

It’s not a laser but three helical microwave antennas for the three mainly used control frequency bands.

I suspect it also uses standard protocols and just overrides the actual operators control signals and just makes it go slowly to the ground it’s been discussed on this blog before.

Bert April 1, 2017 12:19 PM

The issues of drones, if someone is antagonizing someone, if recording even stalking & harassment, a person should let police handle it unless imminent danger as diving at a person. Which I never seen a prohibition against a citizen excercising the law. However some disregard their obligation and responsibility of their acts. As shooting in the air where the falling bullet can affect someone.
But, police are entrusted to the duty of handling criminal offenses, as well as being trained in proper execution of the law which a citizen may not. Police also take the liability if any were to occur, which a citizen, most don’t have that kind of insurance.
Say you’re out on in an open area where you have a right to be and the right to carry and fire a firearm, a person still assumes the responsibility of what that bullet does, but say there drones are aimed at a person,diving at a person where it threatens the safety of that persons’ wellbeing, it would call under self defense. But some states seem to have wacked out ideology that defies reason. As a mosquito bites someone, it’s normal to kill it. It’s normal to sway at flies as instinct.
As in SC, a person has the right to use the same force necessary in the “defense” of another as that person would. But liability and legalities still get involved. As in some instances, how would you tell who’s right or wrong? Just because a person is losing doesn’t mean they’re right.
Any number have a conscience where there’s a sense to rescue, which has a legal side, called duty to rescue. Only thing is, some will feign situations to entrap a person. I’ve seen plenty which has a conditioning affect on someone as me. Too many have feigned or after out roles hoping to get a reaction, very deceitful, but it’s another means to instigate, where it’s also crying wolf from one angle, on the other side, it’s a wolf luring his prey.

gordo November 29, 2017 5:33 AM

Drone capabilities and the stuff of worst-case scenarios:

“Slaughterbots” and Other (Anticipated) Autonomous Weapons Problems
By Nicholas Weaver – November 28, 2017

In short, a “slaughterbot.” It identifies and kills targets based on preprogrammed criteria and aggregated data.

[. . .]

[S]ince such systems would be autonomous, there will be no communications between an operator and the device to jam.


3 Questions on Consumer Drones & Security
The U.S. Army recently banned soldiers from using a popular brand of consumer drone because of cyber concerns — and that’s just one of the new security challenges posed by inexpensive yet capable flying robots.
By Ben Watson – August 7, 2017

He [Brett Velicovich, founder and CEO of Expert Drones] said: “There’s a debate over the lethality of consumer drones being able to drop an artillery shell, or a grenade or a mortar. The problem is, yeah, absolutely it could kill somebody. But it’s not at the lethality that a Hellfire missile would have. The issue is that that’s changing. …all these manufacturers, all day long they’re trying to figure out ways to be able to put heavier payloads on a drone, so you can carry more explosives on it, how to make it lighter, how to make it fly further, how to make the battery last longer… And there’s a gap between government, fancy drone tech and consumer tech is slowly closing. And I think it’s important America gets a handle on that.”


Clive Robinson November 29, 2017 8:17 AM

@ Gordo,

This thread is a bit old, so might not get seen, you could pop a link over on the current squid page.

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