Want to shoot down a drone? It'll cost you, Modesto man learns

When a Modesto man opened fire on a drone hovering near his home last year, the price was more than some spent birdshot.

After Brett McBay downed the drone, a judge ordered him to pay $850 to the owner of the "hexacopter," according to a story first reported by tech site Ars Technica.

“I have to give credit to the McBay school of marksmanship. Still, I’m pretty bummed that I just built this hexacopter only to have it shot down,” Eric Joe wrote to McBay in an email, according to documents attached to a suit he filed. “It was also a little disconcerting to know that the spread of the birdshot/buckshot was in my direction.”

Last November, Joe was flying his homemade drone over his family’s walnut orchard when a shot rang out; the hexacopter crashed on the Joes' driveway. The emails show Joe and McBay met, and, according to Ars Technica, McBay admitted to shooting the drone out of the sky.

Joe wrote in court documents that it took him 40 hours and cost him nearly $1,800 to build the device. The birdshot ripped through the drone's exterior, causing nearly $700 in damage, he said in his court filing.

But, McBay replied, that seemed excessively high. He offered to split the cost with Joe in exchange for a warning the next time Joe plans on “testing surveillance equipment,” McBay wrote in an email.

“Perhaps in SF it’s normal for folks to have drones hovering over their property but we live in the country for privacy,” McBay explained.

But Joe refused the offer and took McBay to court. The judge ruled in Joe’s favor May 19, court records show.

McBay isn’t the only person tempted to shooting drones. A small Colorado town considered – and rejected – a tongue-in-cheek proposal last year to allow residents to shoot drones  out of the sky.

Last week, drones were in the news because they interrupted firefighting in the San Bernardino National Forest.

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