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Not very smart, these animal “rights” types

“By now many will have seen the news stories reporting how an animal rights group sent up a small drone with cameras attached to take video of a group of hunters out on a pigeon shoot. The hunters responded to the drone by shooting it down.”

Classic. The author of this item, Kenneth Anderson, goes on to consider some of the legal issues posed by the use of drones not just by the military and law enforcement bodies, but private civilians.

I want one. And you can buy them on the internet. One such drone gets checked out by Technology Review.

17 comments to Not very smart, these animal “rights” types

  • Laird

    Flying a drone over private property is trespass. In theory, at least, “ownership” of property extends down to the center of the earth and up to the sky. As a practical matter that upper boundary has been limited by the development of commercial aircraft. But they fly at very high altitudes. Hovering a few hundred feet up doesn’t fall into that exception.

    This particular animal “rights” group has already promised to try again. The property owners should seek an injunction against any such future trespass. It would be good for the rest of us to have the legal precedent.

  • RAB

    Yup, that’s the way I was taught Land Law too.

    I’d still kinda like one though, rather handy to check if your builder who says… “that’s the leak in your bathroom roof fixed then Gov, that’ll be…. or for cash” has actually fixed it, without having to climb up there yourself.

    And having been Para-gliding and in hot air balloons, it would be great to see your current surroundings from a different perspective of a few hundred feet in the air. But you just know that most people are going to use them to hover outside neighbour’s bedroom and bathroom windows, and thereby hangs the problem.

  • Kevin B

    It would seem the hunters were better shots than these guys.

  • M. Thompson

    It’s the hazard of engaging an enemy with an effective AAW suite. A single aviation asset is dead.

  • PaulM: very cool! Hexakoptor FTW!

  • Kevin B

    Course, there is a whole sub-culture of radio controlled model flying called FPV which uses video glasses to give the first person view and head trackers to move the camera.

    It can have its own dangers though.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    The only thing that should limit your defense of your own airspace over your property is consideration of torts created by falling objects, be they expended rounds or pieces-parts of a drone.

    Further possible complications; if the drone were over public land/access, or if they were being run by a government agency. The ability of a property owner to recognize police markings on a small drone 50′ up is going to be limited.

    If I were the pigeon shooting club [and like organizations] I would give consideration to air defense from concealed positions as part of the layout. Or perhaps the ability to covertly over-ride the controls of drones and cause them to crash. If they crash on your property, and do any damage ….

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Paul H

    Those of us who like to pootle about in small planes have to fly no closer than 500ft from any person, vehicle, vessel or structure (see CAA air law). Other than built up areas and controlled airspace, so about 90% of the country. You may have theoretical rights to own thy sky above your property, but I have a right to fly freely over it, so long as I do not cause danger or nuisence. If some bod gets ticked off with students constantly practicing engine failure over his flock of sheep, he’ll complain to the CAA and an inspector will make a discreet call and sugest to the owner of the flight school that they might want to vary their prctice areas a bit. Many places I’ve flown show little patches on the local area map with a request to avoid if possible. Oddly enough, these are often the homes of local bignobs, like councillers or police inspectors. Funny that. All accomplished in a very discreet and pragmatic British manner.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Yes, those brave pigeon-killers have enough hassles without drones trying to spy on them! Those pigeons are vicious! Keep up the good work, pigeon-cullers, or our cities will be inundated with pigeons everywhere, and who needs that?

  • Bruce Hoult

    Here in New Zealand you must be more than:

    – 1000 ft above terrain or buildings that are within 600m horizontally from you, over a city, town, or open air assembly of people.

    – 500 ft above terrain, vehicle, or structure within 150m horizontally from you.

    The above does not apply if you are landing (including deliberate discontinued approach), taking off, flying lower is inherent to the purpose of the flight (but still 150m clearance from uninvolved people&structures).

  • ThePresentOccupier

    Paul H – that 500′ is AGL (Above Ground Level), not ASL isn’t it (Er.. Sea. Not much point in using abbreviations if I just spell them out after!)?

    250′ for designated no-fly zones, although there’s a few pilots near me who don’t quite seem to follow the whole AGL/ASL difference :)

    The critical point you make is providing it doesn’t cause a nuisance – whether the gyrocopter hassling the hunt recently kept to 500′ I don’t know, but they certainly managed to cause a nuisance before killing one of the supporters.

    Laird – pigeons *are* a ruddy nuisance. They’ll eat crops quite happily, crap on everything and frequently carry parasites. Like many other species where we’ve has an impact, there is a need to redress the imbalance we’ve caused (and not farming isn’t really an option). In the more built up areas, the ready availability of waste food boosts the population, but for some reason there’s a gang that gets quite stroppy about anybody else waving guns around in urban areas and intruding on their monopoly.

  • Paul H

    Couldn’t put my hand on my UK air law book, but my FAA Federal Aviation Regulations book says

    FAR 91.119: Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes….
    ..
    ..
    (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500ft above the surface (so yes AGL), except over open water or sparsly populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.

    So as I interpret that, in non-congested areas (for eg, the countryside in rural Virginia or Wiltshire), below 500ft above ground level, over open water or in sparsely populated areas (think the Arizona desert or Scottish Highlands) within a bubble of radius 500ft around said person, vessel etc.

    All very sensible if you ask me. And just a thought, a drone is not manned, but it is still operated by a person, so the above rule still applies. From personal experience, flying at 120 knots at 500ft, everything tends to happen all at a rush, great fun for the adrenaline rush, but much more sensible at 1000ft where everything slows down considerably.

    I suspect that as the cost of the technology comes down, we will start to see more and more of what the original post describes.

    Tally Ho ;-)

  • Laird

    Paul H, according to the regulation you cited, in sparcely populated area “the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.” So if there are hunters/shooters present (which was the entire reason for the drone) the 500 foot rule still applies. And a drone operating at that height likely couldn’t see any specific individual, thus defeating the purpose.

    Oh, and I don’t think that FAA regulation necessarily invalidates my point about trespass. The aircraft it is addressing are merely passing over, not intentionally hovering over private property to spy on it and annoy the owner and his guests. If I were running the club I would still seek a permanent injunction.

    TPO, I never said that pigeons aren’t a “ruddy nuisnace”. The city version is dirty and nasty. Its country cousins make a pleasant enough sound, but I have no problem with shooting them. Whatever made you think otherwise?

  • ThePresentOccupier

    Laird – mea culpa, I misread what you’d typed. Woodpigeon I’d happily eat, the urban version I’d want boiled for a *very* long time before I countenanced it.

  • Kim du Toit

    There’s been a lot of nonsense written about this “incident”. In the first place, there is no evidence — none — that anyone in the pigeon club actually fired at the thing. (The video of the drone landing is inconclusive, and the animal rights group has been remarkably coy about showing the actual wreckage. In fact, the most plausible conclusion one can draw is that the drone was crashed on landing, and the operator then claimed that the damage was done by gunfire. But according to most reports, there is no discernible damage caused by shotgun pellets anywhere on the drone.)

    Secondly, the 500′ height restriction is a two-edged sword: above that, and you have to get clearance from the FAA to fly there; below 500′ and you’re trespassing. There are also private property issues, as noted, as well as restrictions about flying over public roads and highways. It’s a huge tangle.

    Just out of curiosity: would light birdshot (used by pigeon hunters) cause damage to a drone at, say, 300′ distance? That’s a hundred yards, and from memory, birdshot is pretty much a spent force at that distance.

    All that said, I know what I would have done if I’d seen a drone flying over a hunting area, scaring away the birds… and loading up a couple barrels’ worth of 00 buckshot would have been Job One.

  • RAB

    I think you’re right Kim. The drone is seen returning to the operator, who doesn’t seem too clever at controlling it. If it had been hit by buckshot it wouldn’t have been able to surely, it would have dropped like a stone.