What happens if you see a drone hovering over your back yard? What if your kids are playing in the back yard and you're worried someone is using the drone to film your kids?
In the case of 28-year-old Stephen Loosey of Norfork, you shoot it down.
That's what happened at approximately 6:30 p.m. on March 26 in the 4000 block of Arkansas State Highway 177. The Baxter County Sheriff's Office received a call about someone shooting "up in the air."
Deputy Craig Gates was sent on the call. When he arrived, Gates made contact with 49-year-old David Rorie Rains of Mountain Home. Rains told Gates he had permission to fly the drone around a nearby restaurant.
Rains said he flew the drone down to the lake to take a photograph. He told the deputy he was flying the drone back to his location, and when the drone was hovering across the road from him above some power lines, the drone was shot down.
Rains went and made contact with Loosey who said that, yes, he did shoot down the drone. When Gates approached Loosey, Loosey told the deputy the same thing he told Rains.
"Loosey stated that he shot the drone down because the drone flew over their property and he did not know if it was recording his children," Gates wrote in his report. "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."
Careful where you fly that thing
For drone hobbyists, losing a drone to an irritated property owner can be an expensive proposition as some drones cost well over $1,000. The best way to avoid having your drone shot down, is to simply be aware of where your drone is and be certain it's not above someone's property who hasn't given permission.
"It's probably best to be careful where you fly a drone," said Capt. Jeff Lewis of the BCSO. "You certainly don't want to invade anyone's privacy, and if you have intent to invade someone's privacy, that's illegal and subject to criminal penalty."
Arkansas has a video voyeurism law that was modified during the 2015 General Assembly to address the use of drones. 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.
Dude, he shot my drone
If you happen to see a drone hovering around your back yard, it's likely not a good idea to grab a shotgun and blow it out of the sky, tempting though it might be, 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," Lewis said. "Shooting the drone down may very well subject a person to criminal charges."
A person shooting down could face a charge of criminal mischief. Depending on the value of the drone, such a charge could be a misdemeanor or a felony. The misdemeanor charge carries a possible jail sentence of up to one year. If deemed a felony due to the value of the drone, a person convicted could face up to three years in prison.
If local law enforcement declines to level charges for shooting down a drone, that doesn't necessarily mean you have clear skies. The federal government has the option of charging a person with a crime for shooting down certain types of drones which are considered civilian aircraft. A conviction carries a prison sentence of up to three years.
In the case of the drone in Norfork, an investigator looked over the deputy's report and recommended the case be handled as a civil matter.