Police: Gun-shooting drone does not break the law

CLINTON, Conn. (WTNH) — The now-famous YouTube video shows a semi-automatic handgun, attached to a flying drone, firing real bullets in a backyard in Clinton. Is it scary? Is it troubling? Maybe, but it is also legal. Clinton Police were surprised, too.

“Our investigators contacted The experts at the State Police firearms unit, our state’s attorney in Middlesex County,” explained Clinton Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jeremiah Dunn. “We determined that, if it’s used in the way that it’s used in that video, it does not appear to violate any current state statute.”

Legal or not, nobody seems to think it’s a good idea.

“There are countless ways that drones can be useful,” said lawyer and drone advocate Peter Sachs. “Using one as a remote controlled weapon is not one of them, and I question the judgement of anyone who would attempt to do so.”

Drone advocates worry this could cause more regulation. Gun advocates, like Scott Wilson, President of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, worry about what safety precautions are in place outside the camera frame on the YouTube video.

“As long as the bullets that are being projected from the firearms are going to a safe direction and they’re hitting a backstop of some sort,” explained Wilson, “it could in fact be a very safe tool that this young engineer has designed.” Wilson pointed out that some of the best military inventions were created by civilian engineers.

The creator of this particular weapon is an 18 year-old named Austin Haughwout. Last summer he was flying a drone armed with just a camera over Hammonasset Beach State Park. A woman on the beach tried to get him to stop, forcefully. The struggle was caught on camera. She was arrested for assault.

The investigation found Haughwout did nothing wrong then, and so far, nothing wrong now. Police warn that could change, if his flying gun is flown a little differently.

“You fly it out of your property, or it’s someone who is not eligible to possess a firearm, you may have a problem,” said Sgt. Dunn.

The Federal Aviation Administration is still looking into whether Haughwout violated any federal rules. That would not bring about any criminal charges, just a fine, most likely.

No one who spoke to News8 is encouraging anyone to try arming a drone at home, and all agreed that lawmakers need to update the state statutes to keep up with the changing technology.

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