A court case involving local authorities, a drone enthusiast and his neighbor—an ex-police officer dog kennel owner who trains police dogs as part of his business—could set a precedent for how local law enforcement in the United States deals with perceived crimes involving drones.
Drone enthusiast Robert Layman of Sharpsville, PA, is facing felony charges of eco-terrorism and taunting, brought after his neighbor, kennel owner John Brannan accused him of harassing his dogs and causing them to harm each other. One of the dogs—a $14,000 European-bred canine—had its eyes gouged out in one of numerous violent fits unleashed by the dogs on each other, allegedly because of a drone flying above, the Sharon Herald reported.
Tony Hallet, CEO of drone consultant Unmanned Response, will be testifying for the defense in the case. He says the data from the drone flights shows that charges being made against Layman are false. He mentioned that the case points to the need for greater understanding of drones.
“The FAA has turned the corner of integrating unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace system,” Hallet told Commercial UAV News. “Integrating drones into communities, workplaces, and schools is the next big challenge. This case reflects the reality of what lies ahead for the drone industry.”
Pittsburgh attorney Corey Bauer is representing Layman. He says the data from the drone clearly shows his client isn’t guilty of the charges.
“We’ve been able to place the drone data over the allegations and see how they line up…the drone data flies in the face of the accusations,” Bauer says.
He questions whether the drones have anything to do with the kennel dogs harming themselves.
“What we’re seeing in this case is a culture of fear that has built up around drones. To me, this is the most ridiculous criminal defense I’ve ever participated in,” Bauer continued.
According to the attorney, authorities are charging Layman with having operated his drone on days the data shows he wasn’t operating the device. The defendant, a 69-year-old retired Air Force Reserve member, has a catering business and once catered an event for Brannan. Bauer plans to argue a Motion to Dismiss the case in March.
Bauer says statements by police officers declare the drone was flying 10 feet off the ground, but the drone data does not show that.
“There’s just nothing that shows that he actually committed a crime at all. All the crimes he’s charged with are intent crimes, and the data doesn’t show that. The unknown has scared people for millennia,” Bauer says.