Suspicious or aggressive behavior toward drone use in public areas is, alas, nothing new, but a video uploaded to social media this week captured that aerial aggro at a higher level, showing the pilot being threatened by a man waving a firearm in the UK – a nation known for very strict gun laws.
The video was taken by an unidentified 33-year-old UK drone pilot as he was being accosted by an irate man wielding a gun in Cirencester, an otherwise tranquil Gloucestershire town about 80 miles west of London. The fully licensed and registered operator had been on a job photographing property for a real estate agent when the aggressor quickly approached him with a pistol in his hand, warning he’d already fired on the UAV and would continue shooting if the pilot didn’t scram. (The actual phrase used was more colorful.)
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Identified in UK media as a 71-year-old resident of the area, the assailant is seen in the video accusing the pilot of flying his drone above his yard and manages to get increasingly hostile despite the polite and – given the gun being waved around – calm replies of his victim.
“I was shooting at it… If you do it again, I will fire at it again,” the angry attacker said in the video, becoming angrier when told that – unlike shooting at flying objects – his drone flight over the area was legal under UK laws. “I took three shots at it, and I missed… If you bring it over my house, I will fire at it.”
The footage ends with the younger man telling his aggressor to stop waving the arm at him, at which point the older man actually strikes the UAV with the weapon, shouting “don’t point a f—ing drone at me.” Apparently, figuring an accidental discharge, if not worse, had become a high risk, the pilot appears to slap the gun to the ground, at which point the video cuts.
The video is notable in capturing the kind of threatening behavior drone pilots too often face from various detractors around the world – and an especially extreme example of that in the UK laws, where laws tightly restrict the ownership and use of guns.
Permits for firearm possession are rarely granted, and even then only after thorough police inspections of applicants, who must prove they have good reason to possess a gun “on a regular, legitimate basis for work, sport or leisure.”
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Attacking drone pilots at work clearly doesn’t qualify as that and mobilized local police to look for and eventually arrest the older man once the video had gone viral in the UK and abroad.
Though there has been some reporting indicating the pistol may have been a replica (though one apparently capable of firing convincing-sounding shots at the drone), Cirencester police say they continue investigating the suspect for making threats with a weapon and possession of a firearm with the intent to cause fear.