There has been news of consumer drones obstructing commercial airlines and disturbing firefighting operations, but not much has been heard before of drones being shot down from the air by neighbors. However, that was what happened in Modesto, California, on November 28, 2014, as claimed by one drone pilot.

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On that fateful day, Eric Joe left Black Friday lines and, in its place, went home to visit his parents. At noon, Joe took to the air what he portrayed to Ars as a home-produced hexacopter drone. His aerial machine flew low and traveled slow, logging just three and a half minutes of air travel time in total.

Then bash! A thunderous shot rang out over the neighboring walnut trees. Since he was brought up by his parents on a farm, Joe immediately recognized the reverberation as a 12-gauge shotgun. The unidentified shooter struck his obvious target in a single effort, and Joe before long stared at his drone plunge from the air.


“When I went out to go find it, I saw him come out shotgun-in-hand,” Joe told Ars by phone. The man found himself face-to-face with his parents’ neighbor, Brett McBay.

“I asked, ‘Did you shoot that thing?’ He said, ‘Yeah, did we get it?’” And Joe asserted that McBay said, “I thought it was a CIA surveillance device.”

No matter the motive, the drone pilot sought to resolve this meeting speedily and courteously. “I didn’t want to get argumentative with a guy with a shotgun,” Joe said. Then he went back into the house and examined the drone. It may not be soaring again. Later that evening, the two men e-mailed each other.

Joe started the discussion. He wrote,

It was pleasant to meet with you and your son. I desire it could have been under different conditions, but I have to give tribute to the McBay School of marksmanship. Yet, I am still really surprised that I just constructed this drone only to have it blasted down.

Furthermore, it was highly disturbing to know that the reach of the birdshot/buckshot was toward my way. Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to experiment the parts of the downed drone. The good thing there is that the more costly parts (which are inside the casing) are not affected. Materials on the exterior of the casing were mostly affected and damaged.


Joe incorporated a detailed list of the spoilt components, which rounded up to $700 flat.

McBay replied,

With all due reverence, $700 dollars seems to be on the extreme. Maybe in SF it is right for people to allow drones fly over their home but we live in the area for privacy purpose. I will be eager to divide the charge of $700 with you but next time it will be appropriate to inform us that you will be trying your surveillance drone in our area. I will leave behind a check for you in the afternoon.


Joe wrote back,

I am very sorry, but I have to claim a full payment for the materials you spoilt, because you blasted the drone when it was above my belongings. The drone’s GPS data locates it evidently above our orchard. Furthermore, the drone bumped next to our driveway, ~203 feet (according to Google Maps) from the dirt road that divides our individual belongings.

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