Who's Responsible When a Drone is Shot Down?

David Feldman |

The ABA Journal reports about the cutting-edge case against one William Merideth in Kentucky. A drone owned by John Boggs was flying over Merideth’s property. Merideth shot it down. Boggs sued for $1500 in damages. So the legal question is: Who owns the air rights above Merideth’s property? Was Boggs trespassing or using space subject to federal government regulation? The Kentucky court needs to determine this.

Boggs claims his drone was taking video of rooftops and woods, not the owner or people on his property. Merideth told the Washington Post, “It wouldn’t have been any different had he been standing in my backyard with a video camera.” While this is fascinating on the drone front, it really gets to a very old issue as to how far to the sky a landowner’s rights go. The Supreme Court made a ruling in the area back in the 1940s, but it doesn’t provide enough guidance here. The FAA has proposed some rules about drones but they really don’t get into these property rights questions. Dozens of states also have adopted drone regulations, with more to come.

The lawyer representing drone owner Boggs complained that the continued legal uncertainty is making it tough for the drone industry. Shall we just get moving on the flying car rules now, since that’s coming before we know it as well?

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