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PSA: You Cannot (Legally) Shoot Down Drones Over Your Property

PSA: You Cannot (Legally) Shoot Down Drones Over Your Property

Photos by
Kevin Baird/Creative Commons

Published January 5, 2018

Vísindavefurinn, Iceland’s premiere webpage for asking science-related questions, recently tackled an unusual question posed to them that does not appear to have much to do with science: “Can you legally shoot down a drone with a shotgun that has entered your property?”

The short answer is “no”, but the particulars of the law may provide clues on how to legally deal with drones buzzing over your land.

Vísindavefurinn responded to the question by citing several Icelandic laws. The first, which are regulations for unmanned aircraft, specify that a person does not need a license to operate an unmanned aircraft that weighs less than 5kg.

The second law, regarding firearms, states that a person must have a license to own and operate a firearm, including shotguns, and no one can fire a loaded gun in a public space, nor anywhere else where damage might be done, unless there is a “dire need” to do so.

All well and good so far: the hypothetical person with a shotgun is on their own hypothetical property, and perhaps the drone – even if it is in the weight class that does not require a license – may be, for example, harassing sheep or small children. Can the shotgun be employed yet?

The answer to that is no, according to the General Penal Code, part of which states that deliberately damaging someone else’s property is a prosecutable offense. As the drone deterrent in question is a shotgun, damage would likely be done, which would aim the force of the law against the person defending themselves against the drone rather than the drone operator.

This implies that one could, in fact, do something to deter or disable the drone, provided they did not damage it. To this end, there are numerous ways to hack a drone and ground it. If a person responding to a drone intrusion has a large fishing net or a pillow handy, they could possibly legally deploy these hacks, land the drone, and then return it to its owner with a stern warning.

On the more lo-tech end, one could also use boleadoras to take it down, provided the weights on it were heavy enough to bring the drone to earth, but not heavy enough to damage it. The same caveats about ensuring a soft landing apply.

With all this said, most people will fortunately never find themselves in the position of having to make these legal decisions, but the facts of the matter are nonetheless important.


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