Shooting a Drone Down Is Illegal, Court Rules

By Carl Engelking | June 29, 2015 3:44 pm


Sure, there’s concern that the emergence of drones will come at the cost of personal privacy, but that doesn’t mean we can turn our skies into the Wild West.

And one small claims court seems to agree.

On November 28, 2014, Brett McBray, fearing that his family was being watched, had his son shoot neighbor Eric Joe’s hexacopter out of the sky with a 12-gauge shotgun in Modesto, California. Although McBray felt the deed was justified, it’ll end up costing him a cool $850, and serves as a warning to others looking to take drone matters into their own hands.

Target Practice

The entire row was first reported by Ars Technica, which obtained an email chain between Joe and McBray following the incident. Joe emailed McBray seeking a $700 payment for his damaged hexacopter, which wasn’t even fitted with a camera. Furthermore, Joe claimed the hexacopter was flying over property he owned, and wrote that he’d appreciate the “courtesy of not shooting live ammunition in our direction.”

McBray’s email response was short and to the point, Ars Technica reports:

“Your facts are incorrect, I’m considering the matter now closed.”

But for Joe, the case was far from closed. In early 2015, Joe filed a suit in a Stanislaus County small claims court, and late last month the court ruled in his favor. McBray was ordered to pay $850, but he has until the end of the month to pay.

Drone Wars

This certainly isn’t the first time man and drone have come into conflict. For starters, just Google “shooting drones” and you’ll find a collection of videos — many from Texas — of drones being felled by gunners. A year ago, a Colorado man submitted a proposal that would have allowed the town of Deer Trail to issue hunting licenses to shoot down drones. It failed, but the man nevertheless sold hundreds of $25 souvenir licenses across the country.

If anything, the feud between Joe and McBray may cause other drone vigilantes to think twice before pulling the trigger.

And if you really want the thrill of shooting down a drone — legally — check out Gnat Warfare in Arizona.

  • q12

    If you want to shoot down a drone, buy your own and have a friend control the thing for you.

    • Publius40

      I’ll do that if you’ll buy a piece of property and confine the flight path of the drone to within those property lines.

  • WeeRedBird

    The “I don’t like something, I’m going to shoot it” theme was the basis of so many SciFi movies where friendly alien visitors die. No wonder none of them want to visit our planet.

  • David Macko

    This issue needs to be clarified. Private property is the basis of civilization and liberty. How far up do property rights extend? Within that area shouldn’t laws of trespass prevail? If only we lived in a free society with honest courts this matter could be resolved much more simply without setting very bad precedents.

    • Danny1735

      If you could use extra paycheck on the side of about 50 bucks to 300 bucks each day for doing work at your home for several hrs each day then this may interest you…

    • Paul Griese

      I live in a free society. it is called the United States of America, the best country in the world! I get to do what I want and go where I want with no problems. You are spoiled and do not appreciate the liberties you have. I guess you have no clue how lucky you are to live in this great country.

      • DavidMacko

        I strongly recommend that you start listening to some honest news sources, especially,, and or try to rent or sell your home to a White man, leave the country with $10000 in cash without reporting that fact to the government or be an opponent of the communist dictatorship of Barack Obama, such as Edward Snowden, Dinesh D’Souza or Michael Hastings, to name a few among very many.

  • Uncle Al

    Pull! Was it birdshot or buckshot? What size?

    If the government fears honest citizens purchasing firearms and ammo on their own nickel, it should. Put a pair in the White House. Trump for President!

    • Cajun Exile

      “….the damage seem to be caused by birdshot…big birdshot”…

      • kimberly.valentine2


    • Paul Griese

      People like you crack me up. Here is a story where 2 private citizens, neighbors, having a feud concerning a drone. Yet you worry more about the Fed! You knucklehead! You should be more concerned about your neighbors, the people who live near you! They are the ones more likely to be doing criminal acts that threaten you! The drones that make the headlines are privately owned! Every case! And really, think about it. Why would the Government care or worry about you? (oh, unless you are perpetrating criminal acts or making crack!). Trump is an idiot. McCain for President!!

  • ΔИθᴎЎϻɸᵿƧ

    If I find a drone coming around here that belongs to the government, it’s gonna get shot down

    • Paul Griese

      What about the drones from a fellow citizen who is spying on you, or has a gun attached to his drone?! That is more likely the case. Are you gonna let it fly because it is not a government drone? Geez, be real.

    • Efstathios Avgoustiniatos

      Yeah, it will be carrying a banner “I belong to the government” so that you can tell the difference.

  • Red Beard Joey Karwowski

    South Park has an episode about drones. Check it out. It’s great.

  • PaulBrosamJr

    If it invades your privacy and is spying on you, shoot it down. If legality was a question towards taking action for ones actions, Obama would not still be in office. He has done more illegal stuff and has suffered no consequences for his illegal actions.

  • Caseas

    < ?????? +dilbert +*********…..


  • NavyBlue1962

    A drone flies low over my property it’s coming down.



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