"I hear 'boom, boom, boom,' three shots really close together. I think, 'I'm getting shot at, the drone is getting shot at.'"
What you're looking at, above, is what it looks like when a drone gets shotgunned out of the air. It doesn't blow up. It doesn't split into a bunch of different pieces. It's pierced just enough so it can't fly anymore, probably ever again.
That's what happened to a New Jersey man's drone last weekend, when a guy named Russell Percenti shot it down. Last night, I tracked down the pilot (who actually lives a few minutes' drive away from the house) and spoke to him at length about what happened on the condition that he remain anonymous because Percenti posted bail and, well, he seemed very, very mad at the pilot when it happened.
The pilot told me he was flying the drone, a DJI Phantom 2 Vision, over a house his friend was building as a favor to that friend. He was just about done filming, when he heard a shotgun blast come from just behind a shrub (you'll see the row of shrubs just above the under construction house in the photo below). Unfortunately, the pilot wasn't filming video at the time when it was shot down.
They were screaming, 'Get that fucking drone off our property'
"I heard a shotgun shot, but it didn't register that they were shooting at me," he told me. "Then, as I'm starting to move, I hear 'boom, boom, boom,' three shots really close together. I think, 'I'm getting shot at, the drone is getting shot at.'"
The pilot said he tried to bring the drone back toward him, which was probably a bad idea because the buckshot from the next blast flew just above his head: "He fired again as the drone was coming toward me, I heard the buckshot go over my head, and that's when I think the bird got hit squarely," he said.
After that, Percenti and a woman yelled from their property (the pilot says he never flew above Percenti's property—the photos he sent me are clearly from nowhere near Percenti's house).
"They were screaming, 'Get that fucking drone off our property,'" he said. "I told them, 'It's not on your property, it never was. I'm calling the police. I'm calling them right now.'"
The police came and arrested Percenti, who was charged with possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief. It's unclear whether he will face federal charges as well.
Like that horrifying incident earlier this year where a teenager got attacked by a woman who thought she was being spied on by a drone, incidents like this are what happens when an entire technology is vilified and misunderstood by the media. A drone certainly can be used to spy, but check out the photos the pilot got here. You can't see any details of the people on the ground.
"They don't understand that if you want to spy, you'd have to basically put it up against a window," the pilot told me. He's right. Even at an HD resolution and fully zoomed in, it's barely possible to see what someone looks like, and it's impossible to tell who they are.
The pilot was uninjured but told me he's certainly not glad that his drone was the first one shot out of the sky: "I just keep thinking, what if my daughter was with me? What if that shot had been a little lower?"