Hunters shoot down Mikrokopter used by animal rights group to film pigeon shoot

From the Times and Democrat newspaper in South Carolina:

A remote-controlled aircraft owned by an animal rights group was reportedly shot down near Broxton Bridge Plantation Sunday.

Steve Hindi, president of SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness), said his group was preparing to launch its Mikrokopter drone to video what he called a live pigeon shoot on Sunday when law enforcement officers and an attorney claiming to represent the privately-owned plantation near Ehrhardt tried to stop the aircraft from flying.

"It didn't work; what SHARK was doing was perfectly legal," Hindi said in a news release. "Once they knew nothing was going to stop us, the shooting stopped and the cars lined up to leave."

He said the animal rights group decided to send the drone up anyway.

"Seconds after it hit the air, numerous shots rang out," Hindi said in the release. "As an act of revenge for us shutting down the pigeon slaughter, they had shot down our copter."

He claimed the shooters were "in tree cover" and "fled the scene on small motorized vehicles."

"It is important to note how dangerous this was, as they were shooting toward and into a well-travelled highway," Hindi stated in the release. He said someone from SHARK called the Colleton County Sheriff's Department, which took a report of the incident.

The Colleton County Sheriff's Department filed a malicious damage to property incident report.

The incident report went on to state that "once shot, the helicopter lost lift and crash landed on the roadway of U.S. 601."According to the report, Hindi told the responding deputy the group's remote-controlled aircraft "was hovering over U.S. 601 when he heard a shot come from the wood line. The shot sounded to him that it was of small caliber."

The deputy noted in the report that he was unable to speak to anyone at Broxton Bridge Plantation following the incident.

Hindi estimated damage to the drone at around $200 to $300.

Hindi said he will seek charges against those who shot down the drone.

"This was SHARK's first encounter with the Broxton Bridge Plantation, but it will certainly not be the last," Hindi said in the release. "We are already making plans for a considerably upscaled action in 2013."

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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on February 15, 2012 at 3:25pm

Gareth: I know you're only kidding, but this is a good opportunity to remind everyone that the DIY Drones site policies forbid any discussion of arming UAVs.

Comment by Gareth Rens on February 15, 2012 at 3:31pm

Chris, I totally agree, we're not the military. The quickest way to end our UAV revolution is for some moron to start putting weapons onto them! Building things that hurt people is bad karma...


Comment by Mark Colwell on February 15, 2012 at 3:42pm

"Shooting" video and pictures is enough to get there attention!!

Comment by Ellison Chan on February 15, 2012 at 3:52pm

Aside from the DiYDrones rules against talking about weapons on drones, it's generally not a good idea to shoot at a group of American hunters with lots of guns, at their immediate disposal, especially, if all you have is a paint gun.

Comment by Matthew Schroyer on February 15, 2012 at 4:09pm

Although the FAA is murky on the subject of sUAS (with the exception of "model aircraft" that are flown for "recreation"), I don't think they needed a COA.

We don't have much to go on, but we do have some well-known documents. Order 1110.150 created the Small Unmanned Aircraft System Aviation Rulemaking Committee, and stated:

"4. b. The law enforcement and aerial photography industries, plus others conducting remote sensing activities, have mistakenly interpreted FAA advisory circular (AC) 91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards, for permission to operate small UAS for research or compensation or hire purposes."

So the FAA said that some drone operators had "mistakenly interpreted" the rules for model aircraft operating standards. But "mistakenly interpreting" something and "violating the rules of" are two entirely different things. They're not really saying that those drone operators have violated any rules; which is actually the purpose of the committee, to make the rules. As you probably know, the Rulemaking Committee has yet to produce any actual rules.

Next, the official FAA "fact sheet" on sUAS:

"Recreational use of the NAS is covered by AC 91-57 which generally limits operations to below 400 feet above ground level and away from airports and air traffic.
For the remainder of UAS operations, there are two acceptable means of operating UAS in the National Airspace System outside of “restricted” airspace: a Special Airworthiness Certificate – Experimental Category and a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)."

"The remainder of UAS operations" in the "National Airspace System" have to get an SAC or COA. But what do they mean "the remainder of UAS operations"? But what if I'm not flying in the NAS? The National Airspace System consists of six classes of controlled airspace, and only one of those applies to areas outside of airports. The lowest of those airspaces is Class Echo airspace, which begins at 1,200 feet, unless you're close to an airport.

What I'm trying to say is, there are no FAA rules on this at the minute. You're operating in uncontrolled airspace. Isn't there something to be said that if there isn't a law on it, it isn't illegal? Isn't there a Latin legal phrase for that?

Comment by Gareth Rens on February 15, 2012 at 4:24pm

Something cant be illegal if there isnt a law for it. Then EVERYTHING is illegal until theres a law that governs it?

That wouldnt work...

Comment by Matthew Schroyer on February 15, 2012 at 4:49pm

Gareth -- I understand what you're saying, but what would the authorities charge you with in a court of law?

Comment by Greg Fletcher on February 15, 2012 at 7:36pm

I believe that the FAA told MI6 films that if your craft is only 2 ft off the ground it is flying in the NAS. Of course they are being ridiculous about it. They're just protecting the full size photog operators so we don't put them out of business. Of course this is BS. Most aireal photog with uavs wouldin't even exist if there were only manned helo's doing it.  No real estate agent of H.S football team is going to pay for a real heli, so they aren't losing any business. Go film another car chase for a mega buck movie studio and bee happy. It's all money driven.

Comment by Justin Stiltner on February 15, 2012 at 9:31pm


The folks thought that AC91-57 gave them permission to fly when it did not, that is the misinterpretation part.  Short story is, if it is tethered to the ground (balloon or kite) then it is not in the NAS, if it is not it is in the NAS.  Also human piloted aircraft are allowed down to 500' AGL in rural areas, that is part of the reason for our 400' ceiling.  My lab flies several UAVs and we have asked FAA UAV folks several times for ways we can fly without having a COA (it was pending) and the result was always the answer that you can not fly unless it is for recreation, which means just you doing it just for the fun of it, as soon as you do it for work, or as an organization(like the animal rights group here) then you might as well be a reaper.  The FAA rule making committee is working to make different classifications now, but until then you are either a modeler flying for recreation, have a COA and fly in the proscribed manner, or you are flying against FAA regs.  Will they drive around looking for folks doing this? Nope, but if they happen to catch wind of it, or there is an "incident" then you can be sure you will hear from them.

Comment by Justin Stiltner on February 15, 2012 at 9:32pm

You could be charged with flying an unregistered aircraft, with missing equipment, flying without a license, etc.


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