The 'Drone Slayer' Has Case Dismissed By Federal Judge After Shooting Down Neighbor's Drone

The 'Drone Slayer' Has Case Dismissed By Federal Judge After Shooting Down Neighbor's Drone

Despite a 1946 United States Supreme Court Decision related to ownership of airspace above private property, the question of whether or not it’s considered trespassing if you fly over your neighbor’s property remains one that doesn’t yet have a clear answer. A federal judge recently sided with the man, who later deemed himself as the “Drone Slayer,” in a case involving a drone that was shot down while hovering over the man's sunbathing daughter. 

Man Shoots Drone Out Of The Sky

In 2015, David Boggs piloted his drone over his neighbor, William Merideth’s backyard, where Merideth’s daughter was sunbathing. Merideth states that his daughter came into their home and alerted him to a drone flying overhead. After fetching his trusty twelve-gauge shotgun, Merideth proceeded to shoot the drone out of the sky.

I went and got my shotgun and I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything unless it’s directly over my property,’ Within a minute or so, here it came. It was hovering over top of my property, and I shot it out of the sky. I didn’t shoot across the road, I didn’t shoot across my neighbor’s fences, I shot directly into the air.

 
Apparently following shooting down the drone, Boggs approached Merideth.

 I had my 40mm Glock on me and they started toward me and I told them, ‘If you cross my sidewalk, there’s gonna be another shooting,’ 
Long story short, after that, they took me to jail for wanton endangerment first degree and criminal mischief…because I fired the shotgun into the air.

The Lawsuit Dismissed

The 2016 lawsuit that was brought against Merideth by Boggs for shooting down his drone has recently been dismissed by Senior US District Judge, Thomas B. Russell. The judgment ruled in favor of Merideth’s motion to dismiss, finding that federal court is not the proper venue for this claim.

Boggs claimed that Merideth should pay for the damages to his drone, which he estimated a total value of $1,500. Who do you side with? Should the nosey drone pilot consider himself lucky for not being injured himself, or should he be compensated for damages to his drone?

[via arstechnica.com]

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115 Comments

Adrian Lyons's picture

Both in the wrong. Meredith should be charged for dangerous use of discharging a firearm, and threatening life with a firearm when he or his family were not in imminent danger. Boggs should be charged with flying his drone illegally.

Full disclosure, I'm a UAV fan, I'm not a gun fan.

What was it about his flight that was illegal?

Anonymous's picture

Flying it over the guys property to spy on his daughter. If you had teen-aged daughters, you'd understand the motivation if not the legality.

Adrian Lyons's picture

Flying over buildings (Part 107 does permit flight near non-participating structures {shockingly} but I think that was meant for low density areas. Rows of houses in a neighborhood I doubt would be acceptable), flying over people (Part 107 DOES NOT allow operations over people and would need a waiver from said persons) Being the girl ran in to tell her dad and her dad shot it down, the chances of having one prior or getting a waiver/release after is practically nill.

Under Part 107 is a chargeable offence.

That is if in fact Boggs even passed his Part 107 exam. If he didn't even have that, he's in even more trouble,

@Adrian Lyons. Need I remind you that this occurred in America. You're Canadian so your views regarding gun use are likely going to be different than an American's. Your country's relevant laws are also probably different.

Anonymous's picture

And the drone operator at bare minimum should be put on a sex offender list.

Wow this is a tough one to decide where right and wrong lies. Personally, I think the drone pilot should have avoided flying over the sunbathing child to avoid the appearance of recording the girl on her private property. I think I would personally found another place to go so a confrontation like this could be avoided. It's no doubt a tough lesson. Ouch.

Anonymous's picture

I have to side with Mr. Meredith because I could see myself in his shoes someday.

Michael Kormos's picture

Well, as a father of 3 (soon to be 4) kids, who regularly play in a pool in our backyard, I can tell you that I wouldn't be too fond of a random drone hovering over them. These things have been known to fall out of the sky, and I really don't need to worry about it falling on their heads. Can't say I blame the guy for shooting it down.

One way to make sure it comes crashing to ground, as you say you fear, is to freaking shoot it out of the sky.

Anonymous's picture

The guys daughter was in the house when he shot it. It's kinda like starting a controlled fire to make firebreak. Kinda.

Morgan, and what damage could it do to other people or property as it crashes down?

Michael Kormos's picture

I didn't say I'd shoot it down.

It really doesn't matter if the daughter was outside sunbathing or not. A drone was flown in a residential neighborhood over private property. No one has a right to just walk uninvited into someone's yard and look around their property, do they? This is similar to a drone flying over private property, except the drone's operator is hidden from view. The property owner or lessee can't confront a person hiding from view. Therefore, I agree with shooting the drone out of the sky.

Adrian Lyons's picture

Actually, no. Part 107, the FAA regulations regarding drone usage DOES NOT prohibit flying near or over structures. While you are correct, people can't just walk into your backyard. They can legally fly over it.

Now, before you jump on me for saying this. Realize this is a law that was passed. If you disagree with it, discuss it with your local counsellor.

Tim Y's picture

I will say this, if the pilot was filming the daughter sun bathing, he is already broken Voyeurism laws in the U.S., which is a felony in some states. Shooting a weapon into the sky is dangerous and illegal in most cases, as it results in accidental deaths around the world every year.

Is it legal to shoot at car that decides to turn around in your driveway; how is shooting a passing drone any different?
Is it legal to shoot somebody using binoculars to look over your fence from their yard, as creepy as they are?

You have no right to fire a gun at anyone or their property unless it is proving immediate risk to your life or in some cases, your property. Guns are real, and simply following the drone back to the pilot (these things have a 20 minute battery life at the most) and taking a photograph of their plates so you can call the cops and have them search the cards for incriminating photographs is the far more responsible and reasonable approach. If this guy is found with photos or videos of your daughter in a bikini in your backyard, he's looking at serious jail time and having to register as a sex offender for the rest if his life. You shooting the drone down only destroys all evidence that could convict him in this case, and opens you up to potential civil lawsuits for damaged property or even loss of life.

Wanna have some fun?
Grab a fishing rod and get some nylon wire wrapped around his rotors, then you can legally look through his memory card in an attempt to identify the owner so you can "return" the drone, and opps.. you happened to find creepy photos of your daughter on there, call the cops and have them confiscate the drone as evidence!

In the short of it; be careful with guns. Shooting into the sky is stupid, and flying over your back yard is no different than a car turning around in your driveway. If they're hovering, call the cops for harassment and suspicion of a peeping-tom.

Dusty Wooddell's picture

I tend to side more with the thinking of the neighbor who shot the drone. Where he went wrong was with the threats he made towards his neighbors. I'm sure he's still dealing with repercussions from that

William Howell's picture

No, he didn't get convicted of anything, only had to spend the night in jail. I read the entire series of articles at Ars Technica and the guy (Meridith) seem pretty nice about the whole thing, even said if some his (Meridith's) supporters had anything to say to Boggs to keep it civil. It appears that as Boggs and his friends approached they were getting somewhat aggressive before Mr. Meredith warned them he was armed with a pistol, that pistol might have save Meredith from battery.

He didn't threaten anyone. He warned them that he would defend himself on his property. That is reasonable and his right.

This is one very angry man. Why not just politely ask the drone operator to stop flying above his home? Bizarre!

Eduardo Francés's picture

I dont think any parent would be happy to see a drone filming their daughter while she is sunbathing in their own backyard... Most are missing this key element here

Regardless your first course of action should not be a weapon. No one's lives were in danger!

Anonymous's picture

You don't have any daughters, do you!?

Dusty Wooddell's picture

Satisfaction. That's why lol

Rob Mynard's picture

Maybe he had no idea who the drone pilot was. If this was a suburb where all the houses had large fences, there would be no way of knowing where the pilot was. Even worse with drones like the Mavic with a 7km range. should he have gone door to door to every house in 7km's?

Hans Rosemond's picture

Not a gun fan, but I have a daughter. If someone were obviously peeping my daughter, Id borrow a gun just so I could shoot it down. I dont think rational thought would have prevailed for me.

Anonymous's picture

Robert Redford's character was running for some political office in a movie. Being a Democrat, someone asked him about his position regarding the death penalty and asked what he'd want if someone raped his daughter (or something like that). He said, 'I'd hunt them down and kill them and then turn myself in because society can't tolerate vigilantes.' I loved that answer.

It's a silly answer. I'd hunt them down and kill them and not turn myself in, content in knowing that that person would never harm anyone again.

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