Detailed by police officers along the New Jersey shore, 32-year-old waiter Russell J. Percenti was arrested last week for allegedly firing a shotgun at an aerial remote control “helicopter” drone flying in the vicinity of his home. According to the owner of the helicopter drone, it was being used to capture photographs of a nearby home that was currently under construction. While he was flying the drone over the unfinished home to take the photos, he heard several gunshots in the vicinity and immediately lost control of the drone.
When the owner recovered the broken drone, he discovered multiple holes that were likely the result of at least one shotgun blast. After calling the Lower Township Police Department, the drone owner directed patrolman Michael Nuscis toward the origin of the shots. Police officers went to the home of Percenti, questioned him about the shooting and discovered the shotgun that was used in the drone attack. Upon discovery of the shotgun, Percenti was placed under arrest and charged with possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief. In addition, the shotgun was seized as evidence related to the crime.
Bail was set in the amount of $2,500 by a local judge and Percenti quickly posted the 10 percent required minimum to be released from jail. In addition the criminal charges, the owner may choose to pursue financial compensation for the destroyed drone.
Depending on the type of drone as well as the quality of the digital camera mounted to the drone, Percenti could be responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in damages.
Regarding the law, the FAA has set guidelines that require drone fliers to stay below 400 feet when operating a remote control drone as well as keeping clear of nearby airports. New Jersey legislators attempted to pass specific drone legislation earlier this year related to operation of the devices, but it was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie during January 2014.