Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Man Shoots Down Neighbor's Drone: Where's the Line between Privacy and Hobby?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Man Shoots Down Neighbor's Drone: Where's the Line between Privacy and Hobby?

Article excerpt

William Merideth of Hillview, Ky., is getting his 15 minutes of fame - or infamy, depending on your opinion of personal drones. Mr. Merideth was arrested on August 26 after shooting down a hobby drone that he alleges was flying over his yard and sun-bathing daughters.

"You know, when you're in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy," he told Fox affiliate WDRB on Tuesday. "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."

As the news broke, Twitter lit up. Many tweets criticized Merideth for destroying someone else's property, but others celebrated him for defending his home and privacy.

My hero of the day is William Merideth, for shooting down a drone over his yard, protecting his right to privacy & security.-- Uilleam (@Fore_not_four) July 30, 2015

Opinions aside, what are the actual laws governing this situation? Where is the line between innocent drone piloting and invasions of privacy? Right now, it's hard to tell.

Though the rules for the commercial use of drones are still in development, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has fairly simple rules for amateur drone pilots:

Don't fly higher than 400 feet off the ground.

Never lose line of sight with the vehicle.

Make sure the drone weighs less than 55 pounds (about the heft of two cinder blocks).

Stay away from airports and other manned vehicles, such as helicopters.

And do not try to make money off of your new toy. Flying a drone for profit is illegal without an FAA waiver.

The pilot in Kentucky seems to have obeyed each of these rules.

A homeowner in California lost a recent legal battle over a similar situation, perhaps setting precedent in favor of pilots. A small claims court fined Brett McBay of Medesto, Calif., $850 after he shot down a drone flying in a neighboring yard. That case revolved around the fact that Mr. McBay destroyed someone else's property even though it never actually entered his yard. …

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