What happens if you shoot down a delivery drones?

Introduction Of drones

As technology advances, so do the complexities of legal and ethical considerations. One emerging issue is the shooting down of delivery drones, a problem that companies like Amazon, Google, and Walmart are beginning to face. These companies are heavily investing in drone delivery systems, and incidents of drones being shot down, although rare, are raising significant legal and regulatory questions. A recent case in Florida, where a man allegedly shot down a Walmart drone, highlights the need to understand the ramifications of such actions.


The Florida Incident

In Clermont, Florida, Walmart was conducting drone delivery demonstrations when a loud noise was heard as the It descended. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office reported that Dennis Winn admitted to shooting the IT, claiming he believed the drones were spying on him. He was charged with discharging a firearm and criminal mischief, with damages exceeding $1,000. Walmart estimated the damage at approximately $2,500, primarily affecting the drone’s payload system.

The proliferation of IT and the high number of firearms in the U.S. suggest that more drones might be shot down in the future. While the Florida incident isn’t unique, the legal consequences for such actions are not entirely clear due to the lack of high-profile cases with maximum penalties being enforced.

The legal framework surrounding the shooting of drones is evolving. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) referenced 18 U.S.C. 32, known as “Aircraft Sabotage,” after a 2016 drone shooting in Arkansas. This law, originally focused on manned aircraft, includes language broad enough to cover drones, making their destruction a federal offense with potential penalties including hefty fines and up to 20 years in prison. The FAA’s interpretation indicates that UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are afforded similar protections as manned aircraft.

State-Level Prosecutions

Most drone shooting cases have been prosecuted under state laws. For instance, a 2020 case in Minnesota involved felony charges for criminal damage and discharging a weapon within city limits. These charges are typical for property damage incidents, whether involving drones or other property. However, the lack of a uniform federal approach means that consequences can vary widely depending on the state and the specifics of the incident.

Future Implications

As drone delivery services expand, the legal landscape may become clearer. Companies like Amazon, which spent an estimated $484 per delivery by Prime Air drones in 2022, are pushing for a reduction in costs and an increase in operational areas. Prime Air, currently only available in College Station, Texas, aims to expand to other locations, potentially increasing the risk of drones being shot down.

The potential for federal charges under 18 U.S.C. 32, combined with state-level penalties, could result in severe consequences for individuals who shoot down drones. The legal system may increasingly view drones as aircraft, with corresponding protections and penalties for their destruction.


Shooting down a delivery drone is not only a criminal act but one with serious legal implications. As drone technology becomes more prevalent, the legal system will likely adapt to provide clearer guidelines and harsher penalties for such actions. Individuals need to understand that shooting down a drone can lead to significant legal consequences, including federal charges, substantial fines, and lengthy prison sentences. As the use of drones continues to grow, both the public and legal authorities must stay informed about the evolving regulations and implications of this modern technological advancement.


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