Shooting a drone is a federal offense, FAA confirms

Chris Scott Barr - Apr 18, 2016, 11:16am CDT
Shooting a drone is a federal offense, FAA confirms

When a new piece of technology comes out and radically changes the market, there will always be people who are afraid of it. With the case of drones, this has lead to people having serious concerns about privacy. And in some cases, people have resorted to shooting down the flying gadgets to prove their point.

What’s interesting is how the government is going to treat cases where people take up arms and fire at drones. Discharging a weapon within city limits is already a crime in many places, and damaging someone’s property is also an offense. However, since the FAA classifies drones as aircraft, one would think that the act of firing at one would be a federal offense.

Since none of the people who have shot down drones have actually had federal charges filed against them, Forbes recently reached out to the FAA for clarification. As it turns out, the FAA does consider shooting down a drone to be a federal crime. They cited 18 USC 32, which allows them to prosecute anyone who sabotages or destroys any aircraft in the US.

What’s especially interesting is that the statute referenced also makes it illegal to interfere anyone operating an aircraft. This could mean that threatening or harming a drone operator could also lead to a heavy federal sentence.

Despite the FAA citing this statute, so far no one has been charged with a federal offense for shooting down a drone. It’s possible that this is just a case of the government not quite catching up with technology. Eventually the law will catch up, and we will start seeing people charged more harshly for shooting down registered aircraft, such as drones.


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