Coddington, Hicks & Danforth

Can your drone be shot down by police? Maybe.

Most drone enthusiasts follow the rules. They generally know what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and California state laws say about using drones. Whether using the technology for profit or for fun, running afoul of the law isn't usually a concern for responsible drone owners.

That hasn't stopped some California municipalities from implementing measures to control drone activity, however. The Oceanside police department recently received an anti-drone "gun" that can be used to shoot down unauthorized drones. It may not be long before other jurisdictions follow suit.

Anti-drone technology keeping pace with drone technology

As this most recent development exemplifies, some leaders view widespread drone use with skepticism. Concerns over privacy and safety remain top of mind for many citizens and public officials alike, despite California's strict laws and FAA regulations regarding drone use. As such, some companies like IXI Technology, which donated its anti-drone gun to the Oceanside PD, are poised to take their share of the market by developing anti-drone solutions.

This particular device disrupts drone control systems by jamming radio frequencies. Doing so will force the drone to hover where it is, land, or return to its home base, thereby leading law enforcement to the drone operator for possible arrest. It therefore offers law enforcement a more sophisticated option for neutralizing potential drone threats, particularly because it can be aimed like a shotgun.

Is it legal?

This is the perennial question asked by the public, the industry and local governments as drone technology advances. The laws governing drone use for commercial and personal purposes are constantly playing catch-up to the technology. Compounding this problem are the facts of any particular situation where police shoot down what they believe to be an unauthorized drone, which will naturally differ on a case-by-case basis.

For its part, the Oceanside police department indicates their new anti-drone gun will be used primarily in emergency situations where lives are at stake. It specifically cited disruptions caused by unauthorized drone use during the California wildfires last year as the main reason for seeking an anti-drone solution.

Only time will tell when and how often such technology may be used, for good or bad. Shooting down drones that interfere with rescue efforts or violate no-fly zones is one thing. What happens when the target is a responsible, law-abiding drone owner?

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