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.