John David Boggs’s drone was shot down out of the sky last summer when he flew it over another individual’s home. Bogg’s claims that he was flying his drone over Class G airspace –federal protected airspace. Bogg’s claims that he was not trespassing or invading anyone’s privacy when William H. Merideth (who coined himself the “drone slayer”) shot down the drone.
Merideth doesn’t think he did anything wrong, and he makes that clear on his Facebook page boldly stating, “Not only did I do it, but I meant to do it. And I’d do it again.” He even started selling shirts that say “Team Willie” and “#DroneSlayer” depicting a drone with the statement “We the people…have had enough!” Merideth was charged by Kentucky law enforcement for felony endangerment and criminal mischief, but the court dismissed those charges finding that he “had a right to shoot” the drone.
However, in Bogg’s complaint filed this week with the Kentucky District Court he says, “The tension between private property rights and right to traverse safely the national airspace was resolved during the formative days of manned aviation. The issue is now arising in the context of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgement from this court to resolve that tension and define clearly the rights of aircraft operators and property owners.” He asked the court to make the legal determination that his drone flight did not constitute trespass and to award him damages of $1,500 for his drone.
The courts have never addressed this issue of drone flights over private property and whether this flight would constitute trespassing. However, we will watch the outcome of this case which will mark the first decision of its kind. This is likely just the beginning of lawsuits related to drones flying over private property and homes. Who owns that airspace? Well maybe this case will tell.