The small town of Deer Trail, Colorado made national news in 2013 when they announced the bold proposal of offering residents bounties of $100 for every drone shot down via official drone hunting licenses that would be made available.
The proposal understandably drew the ire of the FAA who stated that those engaging in such activity would be severely penalized.
As Mac Slavo wrote at the time:
Phillip Steel, who authored the original proposal in Deer Trail, Colorado says his ordinance is a “pre-emptive strike” against what he calls a “virtual prison” being created through continued expansion of the surveillance state. (Source)
Despite an initial wave of support for the concept, the small contingent of voters decided overwhelmingly to defeat the measure.
However, the central message went far beyond this tiny community and forced a federal response and wide mainstream news coverage.
All has been relatively quiet on the drone-shootdown front ever since, at least in terms of any sort of mass uprising. However, this website does get its fair share of comments suggesting that a good number of people feel it is perfectly justified to defend one’s privacy by blasting the offending drone.
A bizarre story from Encinitas, California might reawaken the debate, and certainly highlights what the official response is likely to be.
In this case, the drone was not blasted out of the sky, but was downed with a T-shirt.
Augustine Lehecka, 53, was at an Encinitas public beach with a group of friends when he says that a low-flying drone passed above them. He asserts that in addition to concerns about his privacy, he was more concerned about the safety of 2 small children in the group who were subjected to what he described as basically a flying lawnmower with its spinning blades dangerously close.
The San-Diego Union-Tribune reports what happened next:
He said he motioned for the drone to leave them alone, but it didn’t appear to work. Concerned for the safety of the group, as well as their privacy, he decided to take further action.
He took off his shirt and tossed it at the drone.
“I’m a big guy and my T-shirt is huge. It cannot be tossed more than 6 feet,” he estimated of the height. The shirt wrapped around the propeller of the drone, causing it to drop to the sand.
Lehecka said he considered the situation resolved at that point.
About 10 minutes later, he was met by sheriff’s deputies. They arrested Lehecka on one count of felony vandalism and booked him into Vista jail.
He spent around eight hours behind bars before posting $10,000 bail, said Lehecka, who remained shaken by his experience days later.
Turns out, the operator works for a drone company.
When the pilot of the drone finally reached out to media (anonymously) he defended the safety of his drone flight and claims not to have been invading anyone’s privacy.
Fortunately for Lehecka, charges against him were dropped, but no mention is made of any charges being brought against the drone operator. This outcome would suggest that legislators and law enforcement are not yet sure about how to properly address the proliferation of hobby drones, those used in journalism, or any of the other potential uses – legitimate or not.
Lehecka made a further troubling comment that he and a friend had been “buzzed by a drone just the day before in the Del Mar area.” This would suggest that public drone encounters are quite prevalent in certain areas.
While the strange circumstances surrounding this particular public-land case have given it some major media attention, here are a couple other cases that I have seen reported where homeowners from their private property have employed a physical response equal to the perceived physical encroachment upon their privacy … and were, of course, arrested.