A judge has dismissed all charges against a Kentucky man who was cited for criminal mischief and wanton endangerment after he shot down a drone over his property. Witnesses said that the drone was seen below the tree line, which Judge Rebecca Ward ruled was in violation of William Merideth's privacy.
The DJI Phantom 3 drone's pilot, David Boggs, previously gave Ars Technica video footage that showed the drone well above the tree line. However, Boggs told the publication that the judge didn't review the footage, and solely relied on the witnesses testimony. The accused claims that footage could have come from other flights over his property on other days.
The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the Bullitt County prosecutor could refile the charges. There is no indication, yet, if that will happen.
The only precedent for this law finding, according to Ars Technica, is a 1946 ruling by the Supreme court in U.S. vs. Causby. It found that a farmer in North Carolina had property rights to his land up to 83 feet in the air. That meant that if the military were flying aircraft above his farm he was entitled to compensation for any disturbance to his sleep and chickens. The case also stated that a minimum safe altitude for aircraft is 500 feet.
The Phantom 3 drone that was shot down starts at $699 and goes up to more than $1,200. It is made by the same company with which Walmart has reportedly announced plans to work with to begin testing drone deliveries. If such deliveries become a reality, retailers will likely need to get permission from residence who live in the flight path.
Before Christmas of this year, it's likely that drone pilots will need to register their devices with the government. You don't currently need a license to operate a recreational, unmanned aircraft. However, there are restrictions on where you can fly. For example, within 5 miles of an airport is off limits. Mapbox provides a great interactive map of no-fly areas, and local RC (Remote Control) aircraft clubs may list fields that they use.