'Flying gun' drone video raises a red flag

The discovery of a video on social media depicting a drone flying and firing a weapon multiple times has raised alarm bells over the the negative ways recreational unmanned aerial vehicles could be employed in the future.

Video shows semiautomatic handgun being fired from drone

Drone-gun (YouTube)

A video depicting a drone flying and firing a weapon multiple times has raised alarm over the negative ways in which recreational unmanned aerial vehicles could be employed in the future.

The video was posted on YouTube July 10 by a user called Hogwit, who has previously uploaded or shared videos illustrating drones in action. It comes with the terse description: "Homemade multirotor with a semiautomatic handgun mounted on it."

The 70-centimetre drone fires off four shots in total during the video.

  Danny Vrekalic, owner of Drones Toronto, said the video appears authentic. "It is a small-calibre gun, so the recoil seems correct," said Vrekalic. "Aiming would be horrible due to the lack of stable platform or ability to aim it properly." 

There is recoil, which is to be expected according to gun experts, but not enough to down the craft.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that the YouTuber is a teenager from Connecticut, although it is not known when and where the video was recorded, or by whom.

According to The Verge, Hogwit appears to be a U.S. teen who was attacked by a woman claiming he had taken photos of her at a beach with his drone last year.

Proposed Federal Aviation Administration guidelines require hobbyists not to be careless or reckless with their unmanned aircraft, including endangering people or other aircraft.

When a previous, doctored video of a similar nature surfaced in 2013, an FAA official was quick to point out that installing weapons on any kind of civil aircraft is prohibited.

This rationale is probably not good enough for the YouTube commenter who opined about the "Flying Gun" video, "he has a right to defend his property and life using firearms … Second amendment."

While another commenter worried that too many would find the video "badass," that hasn't been borne out in the days since it was uploaded. Most commenters were appalled by the pairing and its implications in the future, and about the harmful impression it could create for rule-abiding drone hobbyists.

Vrekalic is firmly in that camp as well.

"I wish the conversation would change to the many positive uses and beautiful things that model drones can do," he said.

"I don't quite understand why people think that these new drones are any different than model helicopters or planes, just because they have more than two propellers," he added. "There is nothing significantly different between them.… The helis and planes have also had ability to fly for a much longer period, carry larger payloads and cover much longer distances than the model drones are able to currently."   

For the record, the new Transport Canada guidelines regarding recreational use require that a drone not be flown:

  • Closer than nine kilometres from an airport.
  • Higher than 90 metres.
  • Closer than 150 metres from people, animals, buildings, structures or vehicles.
  • In populated areas near large groups of people — such as beaches, sporting events, outdoor concerts, festivals or fireworks shows.
  • Near moving vehicles, a highway, busy streets or anywhere you could endanger or distract drivers.
  • Within restricted airspace, including near or over military bases, prisons and forest fires.
  • Anywhere you may interfere with first responders.


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