LA Kings Fans Knock Drone Out Of the Air

By Kevin Eck 

Let this be a cautionary tale to all those news directors out there who can’t wait to loose unmanned aerial vehicles above throngs of celebrating sports fans thinking they’ll inhabit a world free from nudity, profanity and possible physical harm.

LA Kings fans, celebrating their team’s recent Stanley Cup win, managed to “shoot down” a drone with nothing more than what may have been a water bottle and a t-shirt.

Forbes reported both the drone’s operator and its attackers may face legal punishment. Click Read More to see the detailed reason why it’s dangerous to fly drones over crowds and also to knock them out of the air.

Given the value of the property damaged, the act of knocking down the drone may be punishable under state vandalism laws. In California, the punishment would be up to $10,000 and up to one year in county jail. Furthermore, throwing objects at a remote controlled helicopter that is otherwise safely flying above a crowd, clearly constitutes reckless conduct that creates a risk of physical injury to another, in most states that is punishable by a hefty fine and a jail sentence. If someone were actually injured by the flying drone, the person who knocked it out of the sky might face reckless assault charges, which carries with it a sentence of up to 1 year in jail and a $4,000 fine in California, and a similar punishment in most other jurisdictions.

Of course, the operator of the drone could also face charges in many jurisdictions, especially if a jury believed that his flying of the drone recklessly endangered individuals or caused anyone physical harm.   Based on the video, the large crowd below, and the low altitude at which the drone was flying, those facts would likely constitute reckless endangerment in jurisdictions that have such a statute.  If hypothetically, someone were injured, a reckless assault would be difficult to prove in most jurisdictions (at least based on these facts) as the intervening act of the fans throwing objects would likely constitute the sole or superseding cause of any injury.  However, we can easily imagine other instances where a drone operator loses control and injures someone, and in those circumstances state assault laws would provide ample punishment.