Online marketplaces such as Amazon.com are awash with page after page of drone and quadcopter accessories, but hopefully a gun or a flamethrower will not become a readily available optional extra. The American Constitution’s “right to bear arms” is likely to become a flashpoint over a couple of incidents from last year which have been posted on YouTube by a Connecticut teenager, Bret Haughwout.
On the basis you are pretty much entitled to do anything you want on your own property in the United States providing it does not endanger the lives of others, it seems the FAA are looking to pick a fight where one doesn’t exist. It would seem that the FAA are investigating these instances, and the family as a result of what they had seen. The investigation is taking place because, according to the FAA, rules exist that relate to anything being released from an aircraft, those rules in place to prohibit weapons from being installed on a civil aircraft.
Aside from the right to bear arms, and despite attempts from the FAA to get the Haughwout family to release what could be classed as incriminating evidence – the drones, the gun, the flamethrower, the original videos – the family are standing their ground on legal advice. The challenge is being made against the FAA range from the fact that nobody knows whether they have the right to prevent people from strapping guns to drones right the way through to whether or not a drone should be classed as an aircraft and therefore should it come under FAA legislation.
Nobody seems to have mentioned that using a flamethrower isn’t the ideal way to roast your Thanksgiving turkey, either!
Lawyers are having a field day and especially Mario Cerame, the Haughwout’s attorney who is arguing that a drone is not technically an “aircraft”. This argument alone is opening up a whole new can of worms as it is also being made clear that the FAA is a regulatory body specifically created to deal with matters relating to piloted civil aircraft. The law may say “no pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from the aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property”, but does this apply to someone piloting a drone.
The legal argument becomes even more obtuse when it comes to the legal definition of an aircraft which Cerame seems to think is unclear, particularly when it comes to the classification phrase “fly in the air”. Believe it or not the pinpoint challenge is concentrating on the true meaning of the word “fly” and what that really means, pointing out that flags fly and in baseball you have a “fly ball”. The FAA have counted this by narrowing down their definition to an object that is “self-propelled and capable of causing injury of person or property.” Even to us here at Quadcopters.com we find this quite amusing that would also seem to be the definition of a bullet. Does that mean the FAA are now going to regulate bullets as well?
What is also extremely interesting about this case is how the drone community has become utterly polarized over this matter. When the videos were first put on YouTube, the drone community basically disowned Brett Haughwout and his actions, presumably on the basis they felt that this was an irresponsible use of a drone. However as soon as the FAA became involved, those who were against the actions of the teenager quickly rallied round in support. This clearly demonstrates that there is a strong element of drone users who firmly believe that common sense alone should be sufficient for the regulation of drones and that the FAA should mind their own business.
We really would like to hear your opinion on this so please do post your comments. We would love to hear your opinion on any of the contentious points raised by this issue, and you can also tell us what you think of the videos themselves.