Society

Oklahoma Bill Lets Property Owners Shoot Down Drones

| by Erik Kindel

Oklahoma lawmakers are expected to vote soon on a bill that gives immunity to property owners who shoot, capture or destroy drones flying over their property, if that owner suspects there's a threat to their privacy.

Republican state Sen. Ralph Shortey of Oklahoma is the author of the two-page Senate Bill 660, which states: "A person owning or controlling real estate or who voluntarily damages or destroys a drone located on the real estate or premises or within the airspace of the real estate or premises not otherwise regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration or where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, shall not be civilly liable for causing the damage or destruction of the property."

The new Oklahoma state law would be in direct conflict with the FAA and federal government's jurisdiction, as the federal government controls all U.S. Airspace. In fact, the concept of aerial trespass does not exist in American law.

But Shortey told Tulsa World that the issue of drone and UAV trespass has become a problem significant enough to warrant such legislation.

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"As a private citizen, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy above your property where the public does not have access and that is under 400 feet." said Shortey.

Unfortunately for Shortey, the FAA takes the regulation and control of airspace very seriously and does not look favorably upon this measure, particularly the portion of the bill that says drones can be destroyed at any altitude.

However, Shortey added that the measure does not specifically state how the drone must be taken down -- it covers all means of damage to the UAV by the suspecting property owner. The measure would not absolve people taking part in criminal activity at the time, including discharging a weapon in a prohibited space, except for self defense.

But Oklahoma's Unmanned Aerial Systems Council, formed at the behest of the Governor of Oklahoma, opposes the bill.

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Stephen McKeever, the Oklahoma Unmanned Aerial Systems Council's Secretary of Science and Technology, told Tulsa World that since unmanned aerial drones are counted among aircraft regulated by the FAA, "the bill opens itself up to the state pre-emption of federal law."

Since it is a federal crime to shoot down an aircraft, and the measure encourages weapon discharge within residential areas -- also against state laws -- the bill may be shot down before it passes.

"Finally, it gives a very bad impression of Oklahoma, so the council is strongly opposed to this," McKeever told Tulsa World.

Sources: Ars Technica, Tulsa World / Photo credit: Newson6

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