RE: FAA Investigation of Austin Haughwout from Clinton, Connecticut for equipping and shooting a gun from an Unmanned Aircraft System.
The Callahan & Robinson, P.C. law firm is greatly concerned about the recent actions taken by Austin Haughwout (18) of Clinton, Connecticut regarding his equipping and firing a lethal weapon from an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). It is our position that such activity has no legitimate purpose and that pending an investigation by the FAA, certain measures should be taken to prevent future occurrences. We are also concerned about the impact on the greater UAS community’s reputation. Although a new emerging area of law, UAS Law has at least some foundational law to rely on.
Unless exempted by law, UAS flights are governed by the rules and regulations of the FAA that have always applied to traditional aircraft. Thus, it is our position that since the FFA would not permit a person in a manned aircraft to shoot a gun at targets without clearance the same should apply for UASs gun use. Since the incident occurred on private property, local authorities have assessed that no local laws have been violated. The FAA has proper jurisdiction here and should take action where deemed appropriate.
One interesting issue will be whether Austin Haughwout attempts to justify his actions by relying on the UAS Hobby exceptions or the 2nd Amendment. In theory, low to ground UAS flying by hobbyists is permitted by the FAA without certification. Currently, certification is only required if the individual or entity intends to conduct operations for profit. The Callahan & Robinson, P.C. law firm believes that the deployment of lethal weaponry by UAS operators is not tantamount to a ‘hobby’ as envisioned when the exception was formulated. The 2nd amendment defense is an interesting argument, however, it is hard to envision the drafters of the amendment had intended to protect such actions as taken by Mr. Haughwout.
We acknowledge in a sense this is a case of first impression and therefore Mr. Haughwout should be afforded a chance to correct his actions. An order to desist from equipping or firing lethal projectiles from his UASs should be sufficient to stop the behavior and discourage any future adventures by this brilliant yet incredibly foolish teenager. Forfeiture of all equipment linked to the lethal flight operations would then be a next reasonable step if the order is violated. We decline at this point to discuss potential criminal charges or how to approach the topic in terms of potential domestic terrorism.
Our biggest concern is that this isolated incident will jeopardize the reputation of the greater UAS community. This technology has the potential to do many great things for humanity, including airlifting emergency supplies or keeping humans at a safe distance from dangerous work. We strongly advocate against punishing the whole industry for the actions of the few. Our law firm will be watching the fallout from this incident closely.