Is It Legal To Shoot Down Drones On Your Property?

Image: DroneShield

A company called DroneShield recently released an 'anti-drone' gun (pictured above) that is designed to interfere with a drone's signal and force it to land. For those who value their privacy and hate the idea of drones snooping on their property, this is an alluring proposition. But is it legal to shoot a drone down if it's on your own land and no projectiles are used? Let's find out.

We've seen them used to film extreme sports footage, to deliver pizza and even to pick up a Bunnings snag; drones have entered the mainstream. Not only are they now cheaper to buy, the laws governing their use were also relaxed a few weeks ago, making them even more appealing to consumers.

Drones used to be reserved for enthusiasts and were mostly DIY projects; parts were expensive to source and the costs add up. Nowadays, you can pick up a drone from JB Hi-Fi for a few hundred dollars. It's still not cheap but it's definitely much more accessible than it used to be.

While there are still restrictions on where a drone can be used in order to protect controlled airspace and the privacy of citizens, there is no guarantee that people won't break the rules. The bloke who flew his drone to fetch a Bunnings sausage is a good example of this. You're not allowed to fly closer than 30 metres to vehicles, boats, buildings or people and now the hungry drone operator may face fines of up to $9000. But that didn't stop him from breaking the law with his drone in the first place.

So what happens if you find a drone hovering over your home? Can you take matters into your own hands and shoot it down?

"It depends a little bit on who owns it and whether or not they will take some civil action against you for damaging their property," Jessie Taylor, senior vice-president of Liberty Victoria, a civil rights group, told the ABC last year. This is still the case today.

DroneShield CEO James Walker told Business Insider Australia:

"In Australia, it is illegal to have a countermeasure, be it as simple as jamming it or a gun that shoots a net over a drone or taking control of it. It's completely illegal in Australia -- as it is in North America or Europe -- to do anything about impacting a drone."

The company has been looking closely at the legalities around taking down drones in Australia. As such, it has been careful to market its 'anti-drone gun' as a detection device locally. The gun does have the ability to take down drones and will be sold for that purpose in countries where it's allowed.

So what if you suspect a drone has taken footage that violates your privacy on your own property? Can you take the operator of the drone to court?

Consumer group CHOICE spoke to Special Counsel Matthew Craven of the law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth about this issue.

According to Craven: "I am not aware of any case in Australia where a private individual has successfully taken action against a drone pilot for breaching their privacy, whether under the Privacy Act or under any other law."

Unless the pilot of the drone is working for an organisation with at least $3 million in annual revenue, "it is not possible for a private individual to take action against an individual drone pilot under the Privacy Act as it currently stands".

It's likely the law around drones will continue to change as public concern increases. For now, your only recourse is to remain vigilant for stray drones that appear on your property.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


Comments

    ...it has been careful to market its 'anti-drone gun' as a detection device locally.So the loud annoying noise isn't sufficient to tell you there's a drone in the area?

      Depends on other noise in the area, wind direction, the height of the drone, so no, that annoying sound may not be enough. Which means if you and your other half like skinny dipping in your fenced back yard and you didn't hear the drone perve, you're all out of luck according to the law as it stands now. Which sucks, not that I would expose my pasty white body to the sun under any circumstance.

        LOL, I don't give a flying toss. I'll shoot the little punk down from a safe distance where he can't see me.

        $1000 in the trash.

        Hit these sorts of people where it hurts, it's the only way they learn.

    "It depends a little bit on who owns it and whether or not they will take some civil action against you for damaging their property,"

    In other words, smash it, then destroy it and when the police come knocking, tell them you don't know what they're talking about.

    DroneShield CEO James Walker told Business Insider Australia:
    "In Australia, it is illegal to have a countermeasure, be it as simple as jamming it or a gun that shoots a net over a drone or taking control of it. It's completely illegal in Australia — as it is in North America or Europe — to do anything about impacting a drone."

    I'd like to know what a "countermeasure" is. What if I'm playing with a boomerang in my yard and their drone gets hit? Is that a countermeasure? What if I just happen to enjoy throwing rocks up in the air over my yard?

    Last edited 29/11/16 9:54 am

      If they were recording video and your mug was the last one on it, wellll

        Well for breaching many casa rules they will be in more trouble than you and your vandalism charge.

    The way this anti-drone gun works is to jam the frequencies WiFi works on.

    While I am sure a lot of parents would love to have a "put the bloody phone down" device for their kids - using it would wipe out all your neighbor's computers and phones too.

    That won't go down well with spectrum management.

    I'm just not sure where this device could be allowed to be used... not in the US, not in Australia, can't see Europe allowing it.
    Some drones work of hobby frequencies, some off WiFi frequencies. Would be dangerous to have a wifi version due to the disruption it could cause.

    So, it's actually just a really expensive spectrum analyser. If they can sell it here at all.

    So it would seem that once again the brain dead idiots who think their right to break the law is more important that our legal right to privacy can get away with it again.
    We, and four of our neighbors, have a drone that hovers over our kids every afternoon. The police or CASA can't/won't do anything unless we have logged evidence (assuming we can find which of the 3000 square meter blocks it is coming from). Yet it would seem they will be more than happy to prosecute me if i happen to "accidentally" knock it out of the sky and it "accidentally" is broken as one of the other dads runs over it (multiple) times with their truck. It's no wonder people think that the laws are a joke and break them so readily.

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