The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority is investigating an 18-year-old mechanical engineering student from Connecticut who uploaded a video showing a quadcopter he purportedly fitted with a gun and was shown firing shots as it hovered above ground.
The hovering drone fired four shots.
According to the report the FAA is trying to find out if Austin Haughwout violated its regulations, which prohibit the careless or reckless operation of a model aircraft
But Connecticut police say no state laws were broken in the 18 year old's case.
Peter Sachs, a drone advocate and a lawyer, said in a Hartford Courant report that there was no clear-cut violation of state law but that Haughwout might have violated federal aviation law against careless or reckless operation of an aircraft or drone. He said the law has been applied to drones in the past.
"Drones are wonderful when used recreationally, commercially, for public service and for humanitarian reasons as long as they are always operated safe and reasonably. This was not an example of safe and responsible operation," Sachs said. "By attaching a gun to a drone and firing it remotely, this person arguably endangered the life and property of another, which is in violation of federal aviation regulations."
Haughwout's father told a TV station that his son created the drone with the help of a Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) professor.
Haughwout was also in the news last year when police charged a woman with assault after she confronted him about flying a drone at a beach park.
Edward Moore, a CCSU assistant professor, said that Haughwout was taking a class with him when the student talked about his gun-firing drone and his video that had gone viral.
Moore said he provided no help to Haughwout on the project and told him immediately that it was "a terrible idea."
"I discouraged him," Moore said. "I tried to give him the same advice I would give my kids."
Moore said that Haughwout showed him the video after class. He said the class, Manufacturing Engineering Processes, is not about drones, but he said students are encouraged to talk about any projects they are interested in. Often, he said, those projects might be a part for a truck or a quad bike.
Mark McLaughlin, a spokesman for CCSU, said that Moore "actively discouraged [Haughwout] from proceeding with it, saying it was quite dangerous. [Moore] wasn't involved in the project in any way, except trying to discourage the student from proceeding with it because of the danger."
DIY inventors and tinkerers produce impressive, albeit dangerous, gadgets and experiments on YouTube all the time. (We've covered many of them.), Gizmodo said.
"Like any emerging technology, drones and other UAVs can be used for good or for potentially illegal purposes. And in these early days, we'll see both. We need to aggressively nail down rules and regulations-but we shouldn't slip into dystopian panic yet, either."