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Burke County man’s drone shot down by gunfire, deputies investigating

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. — Dan Brand wanted the perfect aerial shot of Burke County’s mountains and sunset, but it’s the shot toward his drone that sheriff’s deputies are now investigating.

According to Brand, he was flying his drone at a family home south of Morganton on Sunday when someone opened fire on the flying camera. The lens was hit, and the drone came down to the ground.

Brand tells Channel 9 there were more than a dozen family members gathered at the home, and eyewitnesses say they heard several shots.

“My wife, my baby niece and so many relatives out here; so many things could have gone wrong,” Brand said.

Channel 9′s Dave Faherty spoke with Brand and saw the damage left by the buckshot hitting the drone’s body and camera.

Deputies with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office went and interviewed neighbors along Propst Road, but as of Tuesday, the shooter hasn’t been identified. The sheriff’s office report says the damage to the unmanned aircraft is estimated at $3,000.

Brand, a Federal Aviation Administration-certified drone pilot who uses the aircraft for work, says he’s filed a report with the FAA about the shooting.

Nobody was reported injured after the alleged shooting.

“So many things could have gone wrong, and in that respect, I’m very grateful that this only resulted in the destruction of the drone,” Brand said. “I felt very violated that someone would do that to my property.”

According to the FAA, if you have concerns about a drone flying over your property, you can reach out to them, but it is never acceptable to shoot at any aircraft, including drones. Brand showed us the flight plan he used Sunday, and it indicated that the drone was 120 feet over his family’s property.


The North Carolina Department of Transportation has guidance from the FAA on proper use of drones, but there are also state-specific laws about drone operation. Here’s what North Carolina law says about drone use, according to NCDOT.

Knowledge Test - An operator must pass the N.C. Department of Transportation’s’ UAS Operator’s Knowledge Test to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them (N.C. G.S. 63-95).

Permit - With the passing of the UAS Operator’s Knowledge Test as a prerequisite, commercial operators may request a UAS permit from the NCDOT Division of Aviation (N.C. G.S. 63-96).

Surveillance - It is illegal to use an unmanned aircraft system to take or distribute images of a person or their home without their consent (N.C. G.S. 15A-300.1 and N.C. G.S. 14-401.25).

Weapons - Attaching a weapon to a UAS is a Class E felony (N.C. G.S. 14-401.24).

Hunting & Fishing - Operators may not use a UAS to disrupt wildlife resources or the lawful taking of wildlife. It is also against the law to use a UAS in the process of taking wildlife resources (N.C. G.S. 113.295).

Interference with Manned Flights - Operators may not damage, disrupt the operation of, or otherwise interfere with manned flights (N.C. G.S. 14-280.3).

Launch & Recovery Sites - It is illegal to launch or recover a UAS from either private or state property without the consent of the property’s owner (N.C. G.S. 15A-300.2). Local and federal property have their own laws and regulations governing the launch and recovery of UAS.

Prisons - It is illegal to fly a UAS over any prison, state or federal (N.C. G.S. 15A-300.3).

WATCH BELOW: Drone use lacks regulations on local level

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