The Rise [and Fall] Of The Machines: California Man Accused Of Property Damage After Videotape Shows Him Swatting Drone Out Of The Air

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 7.20.10 AMIn a case that is likely to be repeated with greater regularity in the coming years, a man is accused of criminal damage to property in swatting a drone out of the air in California. Many people view the increasing use of drones with cameras to be a nuisance and have taken actions against the drones or their operators, as we previously discussed. In this case, however, the neighbor of Michael Luzansky, owner of Lucky7Drones, has his neighbor on videotape walking across the street to swat the drone out of the air with his teeshirt. It seems like a rather straight-forward case of criminal damage but it raises the issue of what reasonable limitation should be put on drone operators who are irritating people on beaches and parks with this new technology.

There is no question that this is a technology that has justifiably upset many people who do not want drones with cameras hovering over them with cameras in public spaces. There are many people who have acted like complete morons including the case discussed earlier of a drone operator who crashed a drone into a protected hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. There is also a rising concern over midair collisions with drones like the recent incident involving a passenger plane.

However, as with the woman who attacked a drone operator, the neighbor in Huntington Beach clearly violated the law in swatting down the drone. The drone was a few feet off the road and not above the neighbor’s property. The man warned him not to fly the drone over his property but then walked over into a public area and knocked the drone out of the air. The result was damage to the drone. Luzansky posted the videotape to “Stop the drone violence. We want to educate people.”

He is seeking $1,400 and an apology.

DJI_Phantom_1_1530564aThere should be reasonable limitations placed on this technology. Unfortunately, drone operators want to use parks for their recreation. Yet, these drones not only feel like an invasion of privacy due to their cameras but people fear having drones hovering over or near them. The result is that they can undermine the enjoyment of parks for others. In national parks, drones destroy the sense of natural conditions and remoteness as some drone jockey maneuvers the machine over pristine or once remote areas. Even though these are public areas, you can have a privacy interest in close surveillance. The new technology raises some interesting issues of intrusion upon seclusion and a comparison to Nader v. General Motors Corp., where Ralph Nader was able to show that GM hired detectives to follow him closely. One such instance involved looking over his shoulder at banks to read his bank slips, which was found to be an intrusion upon seclusion even though it was a public place.

The question is whether a relatively small number of drone enthusiasts should be allowed to ruin such experiences for others. What is interesting is that, unlike model planes that operate in special areas, drone operators appear to prefer populated areas. While most enjoy the technology, there is also a voyeuristic interest in some using this camera to observe areas at the twist or tug of a toggle switch. Unless we find some reasonable regulations, these type of confrontations will increase and could easily become more violent.

41 thoughts on “The Rise [and Fall] Of The Machines: California Man Accused Of Property Damage After Videotape Shows Him Swatting Drone Out Of The Air”

  1. Hmmm. Sooo a lot of people seem to be doing this, taking down drones???. Well, that deserves an Irish Poem!

    Swat Teems???
    An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

    There once was a poor little drone,
    Who was crossing the street all alone.
    When a big burly guy
    Knocked him out of the sky!
    Thank God it was caught on cell phone!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  2. So, the drone was a few feet above the street. If I ran into it with my car and it caused damage to my vehicle or riding my bike crashed into it and were injured….who is liable?

    We just bought some more plastic ammo for our wrist rocket/hunting slingshot. It has a range of about 200 yards, but I haven’t really shot anything that far away with it. I use it to zap the deer’s butts and keep them from my roses and vegetable garden while it is growing. I don’t want to kill them or seriously hurt them, so I don’t use the ball bearing type of ammo. Dried garbanzo beans are really cool as ammo to shoot at ground squirrels too, because if you miss and hit a rock the birds can eat the shattered beans and the ground squirrels come back for the beans making it even easier to pop them.

    It would be a gas to try and shoot down a small drone with the slingshot though.

    Like Aridog, I think the shotguns might be a bit much. Although that would be fun as well 😀

  3. randyjet – for the reasons stated above, I agree with your position that this should fall under FAA jurisdiction about flying way too close to people.

  4. Aridog – after seeing a photo of Iglesias’ hand, and hearing about another woman whose face was sliced near her eye, I would absolutely knock down any drone flying too near my kid. I would fight tooth and nail in court. There are plenty of cases where drones have hurt people to prove they are dangerous to be flown near enough to anyone to be swatted, anyway. What if a dog went after it, thinking it was a frisbee? It would get severely cut.

    For the lawyers, why is this criminal property damage, and not civil?

    I think drones are valuable in some cases, but their proliferation is clearly presenting new problems.

  5. Enrique Iglesias just had surgery on his hand which he severely sliced by “interacting” with a drone during a performance in Mexico. Being a consummate performer, he drew a bloody heart on his shirt and kept singing. After a while, he went backstage to get bandaged, returned to the stage, and sung 30 minutes overtime to make up for the break. Then he flew to CA to get surgery.

    Drones can be dangerous to the public, especially when operated by private citizens. Plus, why is it fair for a neighbor to put a flying camera over my house and yard? That said, drones with cameras are very popular as toys, and it’s pretty cool for kids to see the birds’ eye footage.

    If you don’t want someone flying a camera near you or next to your windows, do you have the right to say, “No”? If you feel a drone is way too dangerous to be near your kids playing on the grass, can you swat it away to protect them?

    It sounds like the law needs to catch up to the technology. This is becoming very Fahrenheit 451. Drones are dangerous and an invasion of privacy. Plus, some kids use them to chase birds.

  6. It’s out of line that the guy went after the drone–but I also reserve the right to take a shot at any drone that gets close enough to me, as I go about my regular activities, that I can reach it. If it’s within my arm span, it is too close.

  7. And that was a small $1500 pip-squeak drone. Here’s a bigger $15K out of control drone and it crashes. Do drone users carry insurance policies to cover injury accidents?

  8. I’m waiting for a citizen drone toy to hit some one’s face with 2 to 4 whirling rotors injuring them, evening blinding, the victim. If one gets with in tee shirt swatting distance of me I, too, will swat it down. I figure using one of my Trap Shooting shotguns would be a bit much 🙂 Where do people get this idea that they have a right to invade others’ personal space? Remotely no less?

  9. I am assuming that this neighbor has been putting up with these young entrepreneurs, the noise of the drone, and the nuisance of it flying around the neighborhood and possibly his house. Did the company notify all the neighbors in the area that they would be testing and shooting demo tapes? Did the neighbors agree to allowing them to do this in the neighborhood?
    This company has an entire Huntington public beach area to fly the over and make their demo tape. Why would they choose a residential area? Clearly, rules and regulations will have to be set in place by the FAA.

  10. Don

    Wayne the Peter is on this as we speak. The fact of the matter is that our elected stooges will be too spineless to oppose the NRA’s next campaign for preventative maintenance. Their argument will be that because the government already spies on the people then the people have the right to spy on potential threats by having drones monitor suspected armed criminals that might be planning a raid on your house. Why wait until they enter your house? Go over and wax em before they get a chance. Each drone comes with a rocket launcher and an AK-47.

  11. At least the person who swatted the drone out of the air did not drone on when asked why he swatted it out of the air.

    I’m wondering how long it will be before there is a lawsuit in which someone is claiming that their right to use armed drones is protected by the Second Amendment.

  12. The FAA has rules for aircraft flying in proximity to buildings and vessels, so I think that the same rules should apply. If the guy can swat the drone out of the sky with his tee shirt, THAT is flying too close to others. Thus if I were on a jury or JP, the operator would get nothing for his careless, and obnoxious behavior. In fact, if he takes it to court, I would file a counter suit against the operator.

  13. So, for my next entrepreneurial adventure I will be developing and marketing mini net deploying devices that can be fired from a simple air powered tube. The net, while it is contained in its projectile shape, can be fired up to three hundred yards into the air where, when reaching its apex, it opens to cover an area sufficient to surround the drone. The net brings the drone down. No one need be aware of where the net came from. The legal issues arising from damage and/or injury to those on the ground directly underneath will contribute to society’s management of this nonsense.

  14. The govt.’s drones and planes worry me alot. Here is a link. In this case it is small planes flown over parts of our nation. The ownership of the planes is the DOJ but this is hidden by hundreds of CIA front companies. Here is the link:

    As to citizen drones, I think there should be drone parks which function much like dog parks. This is an area set aside for enthusiasts. It is delimited and well marked. Of course one’s yard is one’s own business but as soon as the drone has a camera and flies high enough to take pictures of other people/houses, etc. then the camera needs to be removed. It should be lawful to sue of damages if a neighbor takes pictures of other people’s houses, property or person without permission.

    Making drones into fun toys is one more way the govt. is acclimating our citizens to accept surveillance. We need to wake up and stop assenting to this, right now.

  15. I had a conversation w/ a couple neighbors in San Diego about this. A young man who lived nearby had a drone and liked to show it off, hovering right near people as they sat on their rooftop decks. We all agreed incidents like this are going to occur.

  16. Isn’t it amazing a person who decided to become his own little CIA has more rights that a citizen who is just minding his or her own business. But then of course humans and their concerns don’t matter. It’s all about the money.

    Drones are both a nuisance and a hazard.

  17. Waiting for some guru to come up with a drone countermeasure device that would disable the operators control. Then it would be a matter of who has rights to the radio frequencies airways.

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