FAA Takes “Flamethrower” Drone Owner to Court

CT introduces drone lawsThe FAA wants to know more about the now famous gun-wielding drone that has fired up controversy in Connecticut and it’s willing to go to court to find out.

In 2015, Austin Haughwout, a mechanical engineering student at Central Connecticut State University, released a video demonstrating a drone carrying a gun and as well as a flame-thrower with a different UAV.

Since then, the FAA has launched an investigation and the agency wants Haughwout to “submit documents pertaining” to the supposedly weaponized drones, according to the Connecticut Law Tribune. However, Haughwout and his father are fighting the subpoenas and the case is making its way through the federal court system with a July 6 hearing date scheduled.

According to the FAA, the agency wants to know if the Haughwouts violated any regulations. The agency is seeking “photographs and video, receipts for the flamethrower, YouTube audience, advertising, and monetization information, and other evidence that could be used against the family in court should the FAA decide that a crime was committed.”

Austin’s father, Bret, replied to the FAA with a letter and pointed out that the drone flights have not been alleged to violate any federal law or regulation. “What is being investigated?” Bret wrote.

The FAA contends the Haughwouts “have built and/or operated at least two UAS carrying weapons with the capability of causing serious injury to a person or property.”

In a recent feature for Motherboard, writer Jason Koebler points out: “Haughwout flew his drones on private property at roughly shoulder height. He’s not near people and his drones are clearly not a danger to planes. Based on his flying alone, this is a clearly legal use of a hobby drone.”

Haughwout’s attorney, Mario Cerame, believes the case could evolve into the “the most important drone law case ever litigated.”

In March, Haughwout’s video prompted Connecticut lawmakers to propose two bills that would restrict the use of drones, with one bill prohibiting a drone pilot to “control a deadly weapon or explosive device with a drone.”  Violators could face up to 10 years in jail.

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