The way William Merideth sees it, it’s pretty clear-cut: a drone flying over his backyard was a well-defined invasion of privacy, analogous to a physical trespassing.
Not knowing who owned it, the Kentucky man took out his shotgun and fired three blasts of Number 8 birdshot to take the drone out.
“It was just right there,” he told Ars. “It was hovering, I would never have shot it if it was flying. When he came down with a video camera right over my back deck, that’s not going to work. I know they’re neat little vehicles, but one of those uses shouldn’t be flying into people’s yards and videotaping.”
Minutes later, a car full of four men that he didn’t recognize rolled up, “looking for a fight.”
“Are you the son of a bitch that shot my drone?” one said, according to Merideth.
His terse reply to the men, while wearing a 10mm Glock holstered on his hip: “If you cross that sidewalk onto my property, there’s going to be another shooting.”
The men backed down, retreated to their car, and waited for the police to arrive.
“His only comment was that he hoped I had a big checkbook because his drone cost $1,800,” Merideth added.
The Kentuckian was arrested Sunday evening in Hillview, Kentucky, just south of Louisville and charged with criminal mischief and wanton endangerment. He was released the following day. The Hillview Police Department did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.
A measured approach?
The report of the downed drone comes a month after Ars reported on a similar incident in Modesto, California. But in that case, the drone operator was flying his drone over his parents’ farm, and it was shot down by a neighbor.
Here, Merideth, who operates a local trucking company, said that he had seen “two or three” different drones in his backyard previously over the last year and was disturbed by their presence. “What recourse do we have?” he asked.
The 43-year-old man claimed that law enforcement officials, including the county jailer, told him privately that they agreed with his actions. “The people that own the drones and the people that hate guns are the only ones that disagree with what I did,” he said. “Now, if I’d have had a .22 rifle, I should have gone to jail for that. The diameter of those things are going to come down with enough force to hurt somebody. Number 8 birdshot is not. Number 8 is the size of a pinhead. The bottom line is that it’s a right to privacy issue and defending my property issue. It would have been no different had he been standing in my backyard. As Americans, we have a right to defend our rights and property.”
So what’s next in this bizarre tale?
“We have a lawyer and there’s a court date and then there’s going to be a hearing,” Merideth said. “It’s not going to stop with the two charges against me, which I’m confident that we’ll get reduced or get dismissed completely.”
And what would Merideth like to tell this errant drone operator when he meets him again?
“I would just like [him] to get some education on his toy and learn to respect the rights of the people,” he said. “It’s fine and dandy, and I think it’s cool there’s a camera on it, but just take it to a park or something—he’s not a responsible drone owner.”
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com