Connecticut teen flies gun-toting drone. How is this legal?

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into a video of a drone mounted with a semi-automatic handgun.

AP

It flies, it buzzes, and it shoots live rounds.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating footage featuring a gun-mounted drone built by a Connecticut teenager, according to reports. The video, posted on YouTube under the title, “Flying Gun,” shows what inventor Austin Haughwout calls “a homemade multirotor with a semi-automatic handgun mounted on it” firing into the woods.

The footage, which has been viewed nearly 2 million times since it went up July 10, comes as debate around drone regulation heats up following reports of unmanned aerial vehicles delaying firefighter response to a wildfire in Southern California, and of the first FAA-approved drone delivery of medical supplies to a remote region of Virginia.

In this case, the issue is whether gun-toting drones violate Connecticut state or federal laws. The incident also ties into a broader discussion around drone education and regulation as more of the devices take to the skies.

The FAA has only recently allowed civilians to apply for flight permission, after much prompting from industries and the White House to come out with a more streamlined set of rules. Its regulations around model aircraft warns against being “careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft.”

The FAA also bans the pilot of any aircraft from dropping objects from the air in a way that “creates a hazard to persons or property,” though the regulation doesn’t prohibit a pilot from dropping objects if he or she takes precautions to avoid injury or damage.

As for Connecticut’s gun-wielding drone, Austin’s father, Brett, told NBC News that neither he nor his son violated any laws. He claims that they did “extensive research” before assembling the drone to make sure all was within the bounds of the law. The footage that shows the drone firing the weapon four times was shot on their property in Clinton, Conn., he added.

And local police, while saying the device is alarming, don’t disagree: Though the Clinton Police Department was concerned for public safety when first alerted to the video, they appear to have concluded that the device does not violate any state law, ABC News reported.

The FAA, however, is not as easily convinced. The agency “will investigate the operation of an unmanned aircraft system in a Connecticut park to determine if any Federal Aviation Regulations were violated,” a spokesman told CNET. “The FAA will also work with its law enforcement partners to determine if there were any violations of criminal statutes.”

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