Steve Loosey was in his home in Norfork on March 26 when he noticed an unmanned aerial vehicle hovering around his house. In a sudden outburst of rage, Loosey ran into his house, got his rifle, and shot down the drone. He was apparently concerned that unknown persons were filming his kids who were still underage right in their home as they played.
Turned out the drone he shot down from “his airspace” belonged to David Rorie Rains of Mountain Home, who as we are told, had permission to fly the drone around a nearby restaurant. Rains insisted he was not filming the kids or even the home of the Looseys and was only taking photographs of a serene lake close to the man’s residence. It was when he was flying the drone back to his location that it was shot down.
Deputy Craig Gates from the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office was sent to investigate about the reported shootings in the air by a concerned citizen, and when he arrived, he met with 49-year-old David Rorie Rains. The men went with Loosey, who confirmed that he was the one shooting into the air as he wanted to shoot down a drone he accused of illegal surveillance.
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In his report, Gates wrote, “Loosey stated that he shot down the drone because the drone flew over their property and he didn’t know if it was recording his children. Loosey stated that he and his children were outside when he saw the drone flying from the lake. The drone at one point hovered over the trampoline, which is when he got out his rifle and shot it down.”
An investigator studied the Deputy’s report and recommended that the case be handled as a civil matter. However, not every case ends up like this as shooting a drone could make the shooter to face a charge of criminal mischief. The charge could also be a felony or a misdemeanor and both charges carry a possible jail sentence of up to three years.
Having a drone shot down because you weren’t aware your drone was above the property of an individual who jealously guards his right to privacy is just plain expensive. Some of these drones can cost an average of $1,000, and having property of this worth destroyed without a moment’s thought can be heart-wrenching.
Capt. Jeff Lewis of the BCSO said, “You certainly don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy, and if you have the intent to invade someone’s privacy, that’s illegal and subject to criminal penalty.”
During the 2015 General Assembly, Arkansas modified its video voyeurism law to address the use of drones. The modification declares that under certain circumstances, if someone uses a drone to invade the privacy of another person, they can be charged with either a Class A or a Class B misdemeanor, depending on the specific circumstances. As drones become more pervasive, it seems that drones, perceived privacy violations, and firearms are increasingly becoming a dangerous combination.
The law has been vague concerning the issue of trespassing by drones, but there are Supreme Court rulings that stated that a farmer in North Carolina could assert property rights up to 83 feet in the air.
The Federal Aviation Authority, however, remains firm in their belief that it is illegal to shoot at any aircraft, drone or otherwise, and stated that “shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in a civil penalty from the FAA and/or criminal charges filed by Federal, State or Local law enforcement.”
Lewis said, “If someone is flying a drone over your property, the best way to handle it is to gather all the information you can and call law enforcement. They will conduct an investigation and determine if charges are appropriate. Shooting down a drone may well subject a person to criminal charges.”
“It is likely not a good idea to grab a shotgun and blow it out of the sky, tempting, though, it may be,” Lewis added.