Cops on Long Island have arrested a man on suspicion of shooting a DJI quadcopter out of the sky.
The incident took place in the small community of St. James, about 50 miles east of Manhattan, on Saturday.
The drone — a Mavic 2 Zoom — was being used by a local volunteer group that specializes in searches for lost pets when it was allegedly shot down by 26-year-old Gerard Chasteen, according to the New York Post.
Chasteen reportedly fired three shots at the $1,249 drone, one of which knocked it clean out of the sky.
Lynn Fodale and Teddy Henn of pet-search group Missing Angels Long Island told the Post that when the signal went dead, they assumed a bird had attacked the drone.
But after making their way to the Mavic’s last known location, someone nearby said Chasteen had used a shotgun to take down the drone before telling the pet-finding pair where the suspect lived.
Fodale and Henn said they confronted the alleged drone shooter, who reportedly told them that he fired at it because he didn’t like it flying over his house. But the pair claim that flight records show that the Mavic was close by rather than directly overhead, and was being used to view a drainage ditch in search of the lost dog.
The police have since accused Chasteen of third-degree criminal mischief and prohibited use of a weapon. A court appearance is upcoming.
This isn’t the first case of an irate property owner taking aim at a drone hovering close by, with more than a dozen cases reported in the U.S. alone in recent years. In 2015, a Kentucky man was arrested after blasting a drone out of the sky when he spotted it flying over his house.
Accounts of the event from the drone pilot and the accused didn’t match up, but the subsequent court case saw the judge side with the suspect, prompting her to dismiss the first-degree criminal mischief charge against the shooter. Since that incident, the Federal Aviation Administration has said that it’s a federal crime to shoot down a drone, citing the aircraft sabotage law.
The recent incident on Long Island comes as the government looks to gradually relax rules for commercial drone flights, with NASA’s drone traffic control system likely to lead to more flight freedom in built-up areas in the near future. But opening up the skies to more drone flights in urban areas has the potential to upset more residents concerned about privacy, presenting a challenge for the authorities as well as companies like Amazon that want to use the machines to drop off customer orders.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the dog, the most recent reports suggest the mutt is still missing.
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