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What Happens If You Shoot Down a Delivery Drone?

9 Jul 2024 5:42 PM | Anonymous

Something characteristic of the present period has arisen with the advent of wealthy corporations such as Amazon, Google, and Walmart that are willing to invest in and test out drone deliveries. Drones are being launched from the sky with food and other miscellaneous items on board. Still, incidents remain uncommon.

But what are the legal ramifications, and may they grow as these incidents become more frequent? A man was recently arrested in Florida for allegedly shooting down a Walmart drone. The issue of legal consequences has remained unclear despite the widespread use of consumer drones for more than a decade. We received a partial response from the FAA after a drone shooting in Arkansas in 2016. The FAA directed anyone with an interest to 18 U.S.C. 32 back then. Titled "Aircraft Sabotage," the statute criminalizes the willful destruction of "any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or any civil aircraft used, operated or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce."

"Makes it a Federal offense to commit an act of violence against any person on the aircraft, not simply crew members, if the act is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft." This line of reasoning seems to be aimed squarely at manned airplanes. However, in light of the drone shooting in Arkansas, the FAA has stated that these safeguards can be expanded to encompass UAVs as well. It would appear that the phrase is actually comprehensive enough to encompass drones. As a result, the consequences could be just as severe. Following an event in Minnesota in 2020, the topic was brought back to light. Criminal damage and discharge of a weapon within city limits were the felony accusations levied against the perpetrator in that instance. In most cases involving property damage rather than bodily harm, whether including a drone or not, those would also most likely be the charges. Regardless of these instances, it is still impossible to say with certainty whether or not prosecutors will also bring a federal charge such as 18 U.S.C. 32.

The majority of instances have been handled by state laws rather than the federal government, as pointed out by the legal blog Above the Law. In most instances where 18 U.S.C. 32 has been invoked, additional charges like as murder may be brought out in connection with human crew members or passengers. Although it might not be prosecuted in the same way, it is arguable that dropping a big piece of technology from the sky in a densely populated region brings its own risk of physical injury. However, the future of federal regulation such as 18 U.S.C. 32 in relation to UAV shootings may become clearer as the use of drone delivery services grows in the United States. Adding that to the mix carries additional penalties, such as fines and a maximum sentence of twenty years in jail, which could worsen the already dire situation. However, regardless of whether it is invoked or not, the repercussions can be severe.

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