Fears over the safety of airborne drones and their potential misuse for dangerous or illegal pursuits are one of the reasons why the headline-grabbing technology remains a pointedly controversial topic, but this latest drone prank filmed in the US is setting off even more alarm bells than usual.
An 18-year-old Connecticut man and his father have uploaded footage to YouTube of a home-made drone equipped with a semi-automatic handgun mounted at the front of the unit. In the video, the drone can be seen firing a number of bullets into the woods, with the force of recoil visibly shunting the drone backwards after each shot.
According to Dan Corcoran and Bob Connors of NBC, the builder of the drone, Austin Haughwout, is a mechanical engineering student at Central Connecticut State University. The gun mounted on the drone belongs to his father, who helped him shoot the video on their property in Clinton, Connecticut, after conducting thorough research to make sure they weren't breaking any state laws by building the gun-toting flying machine.
Despite the obvious dangers posed by the pair's 'Flying Gun', it seems their assessment of the legality of the device is correct. The flying drone appears to be breaking no Connecticut laws, not that the invention has impressed local law enforcement.
"Something just doesn't appear to be right, a gun hovering on a drone being discharged?" Sgt. Jeremiah Dunn of the Clinton Police Department told Corcoran. "[But if] it's being discharged in an area where it could be legally discharged, right now there's no legislation that prohibits it."
Despite the inability of local law officials to do anything about the gun-firing drone, the US Federal Aviation Administration has announced it will be conducting its own investigation into the video to see if any federal laws have been broken.
"The FAA will investigate the operation of an unmanned aircraft system in a Connecticut park to determine if any Federal Aviation Regulations were violated. The FAA will also work with its law enforcement partners to determine if there were any violations of criminal statutes," said a spokesperson.
Haughwout's drone-flying activities have gotten him into trouble before. Last year he was assaulted by a woman who accused him of filming beachgoers without their consent while piloting his drone. Haughwout uploaded footage he filmed of that attack to YouTube, and, ironically enough, the ad revenue generated from the video ended up funding the components used in his gun-toting drone. He intends to fund his next invention with the proceeds from 'Flying Gun'.