A DRONE is a UAS is an AIRCRAFT
Federal Law makes Destroying an Aircraft a FELONY
US ATTORNEY charged a man who shot down the Sherriff’s Drone with a .22
There has been some debate whether one may shoot down a drone (technically an unmanned aerial system). According to Loretta Alkalay, an aviation attorney ,who teaches Drone Law at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology and who was FAA Regional Counsel for many years, opined that shooting down a UAS is prohibited under a statute (18 U.S. Code § 32 )that–
“… prohibits interfering with anyone “engaged in the authorized operation of such aircraft“ and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Since drones are considered aircraft, threatening a drone or a drone operator, according to Ms. Alkalay, would also be a federal crime subject to five years in prison under this same statute.”
The author (former NTSB Member Goglia) of the article, in which the quote originally appeared, intoned: “It’s time the United States put an end to these dangerous acts and criminally prosecuted those who shoot at unmanned aircraft.”
A GOOGLE search (hardly 1000% reliable, but best method available) confirms that the below case– in which a Lake County Sheriff’s Office’s drone, was brought down by a.22 shot very well-aimed the accused, Wendell Doyle Goney — appears to have brought the first federal prosecution under 18 USC § 32.
Generally, US Attorneys Offices are swamped with many high priority criminal cases; aviation charges do not always get top billing in these busy dockets. Mr. Goney will likely plead or be prosecuted because, in addition to his destruction of an aircraft, this multi-felony convict was prohibited from owning a weapon.
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Ocala, Florida – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Wendell Doyle Goney (51, Mount Dora) with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and destruction of aircraft. If convicted of both counts, Goney faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. The indictment also notifies Goney that the United States intends to forfeit a rifle and ammunition allegedly used in the commission of the offenses.
According to court documents, on July 11, 2021, deputies from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office responded to a burglary at a 10-acre business property in Mount Dora. Deputies deployed a law enforcement drone to assist with the outdoor search, only to have the drone destroyed by gunfire from a neighboring property. When deputies responded to that location, they confronted Goney, who acknowledged that he had just shot down the drone with a .22 caliber rifle. He claimed that drones had been “harassing” him. Goney also admitted to the deputies that he could not lawfully possess a firearm—he has 29 prior felony convictions in Florida. As a convicted felon, Goney is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition under federal law.
An indictment is merely an allegation and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Department of Transportation-Office of Inspector General, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert E. Bodnar, Jr.
 Ms. Alkalay believes that this is likely a correct statement.
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