FAA says shooting down drones is a federal crime

The target practice isn't worth years in prison.

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Getty Images/iStockphoto (edited to add drone silhouette)
Getty Images/iStockphoto (edited to add drone silhouette)

Some judges might think you're allowed to shoot down drones that encroach on your turf, but don't tell that to the Federal Aviation Administration. In response to Forbes' questions, the agency says that shooting down a drone is a federal crime. You're still damaging an aircraft, according to the FAA -- it's just that this one doesn't have a pilot onboard. You could face up to 20 years in prison as a result, which is bound to make you think twice about blasting that drone peeping at your backyard.

If that opinion holds up in court, it raises all kinds of thorny questions. If a drone threatens your safety, does shooting it down count as self-defense? What about state measures that let authorities shoot down problematic drones, such as a proposed law in Utah? And what about alternatives that use birds or even other drones to take the machines down? Those decisions may have to wait until there's a case that creates legal precedent, and any incident like that is bound to be messy.

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