Don’t Shoot That Drone!

You are sunbathing topless in your backyard and all of the sudden you hear the sounds of a drone whirring above you.   You are tempted to reach past the sunscreen for your shotgun and blast that drone out of the sky.   Don’t do it!  Shooting a drone is illegal, and constitutes aircraft sabotage under 18 U.S.C. 32.

Amendments to 18 U.S.C. § 32 enacted in 1984 expand United States jurisdiction over aircraft sabotage to include destruction of any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or any civil aircraft used, operated or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce. This statute now also makes it a Federal offense to commit an act of violence against any person on the aircraft, not simply crew members, if the act is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft. In addition, the United States is authorized under the statute to prosecute any person who destroys a foreign civil aircraft outside of the United States if the offender is later found in the United States or, effective as of April 24, 1996, a national of the United States was aboard such aircraft (or would have been aboard if such aircraft had taken off) or a national of the United States was a perpetrator of the offense. See USAM 9-63.221, et seq.

Do I need a pilot certificate to fly my drone?


FAA Regulations require a pilot certificate to operate a UAS. Pilot certification requirements for petitions for exemption under Section 333 are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Although Section 333 grants the Secretary of Transportation flexibility with regard to airworthiness certification requirements, it does not grant the Secretary any flexibility with regard to airman certification standards.  These are set forth in Sections 44703 and 44711 of Title 49 of the United States Code (49 USC).  An FAA airman certificate is required to operate an aircraft in the National Airspace System.  You should note that a pilot’s license is not required to petition for a Section 333 Exemption.