Ascension Parish resident shoots down neighbor’s drone, says wife felt like it was watching her

An Ascension Parish man hunting squirrels on his property Monday shot down a neighbor’s drone that had been flying over his home for several months, making his wife feel as though she was being watched.

Aaron Hernandez, the owner of the drone, which was outfitted with a camera, said Tuesday he was flying his $1,200 remote-controlled quadcopter, which he got as a Christmas present last year, at his father’s home in a rural area off La. 936 early Monday evening when his neighbor shot it, disabling it at first, leaving it hovering in the sky.

Hernandez said he ran over to his neighbor’s property, saying he wouldn’t fly the drone again, but the neighbor, Derek Vidrine, blasted it out of the sky.

Hernandez said he had his 7-year-old niece with him at the time and the incident frightened her. He called the Sheriff’s Office.

Vidrine said Hernandez has been flying the drone over his property for months.

Last week, he said, when his wife saw the drone flying above her, she rode her horse to the property line and told Hernandez to stop flying the machine over her property.

“He said, ‘Call the cops.’ We called the cops,” Vidrine said.

The sheriff’s deputy that answered the call asked Hernandez to stop flying it over the neighbor’s land, Vidrine said.

“Yesterday, he did it again,” Vidrine said Tuesday.

Vidrine was out hunting when he first saw the drone.

“It’s squirrel season. It was right there. I shot it,” Vidrine said.

“That’s where we’re at,” he added.

The complaints were the first about drones that the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has received, but deputies expect to get more in the future as drones become more common, Lt. Col. Bobby Webre said.

While there aren’t state laws regulating drone hobbyists, Webre said, there are FAA guidelines.

“(The FAA) seriously recommends getting permission from the property owner” if you want to fly a drone over their property, Webre said.

The FAA says to “use good common sense and respect people’s reasonable expectation of privacy,” he said.

Hernandez said he has enjoyed flying the drone — which he said has to be flown 200 feet or higher or else it will lose its signal and crash — to photograph the area.

The drone feeds images to his iPhone, he said, that can be viewed in real time or developed into pictures.

“For all of my neighbors, I blow the pictures up and give the pictures to them,” Hernandez said. “Do you know what it costs to pay someone to take an (aerial) picture of your house?”

He considers what happened to his drone to be a violation of federal law since the “FAA considers that an aircraft.”

Hernandez maintains no one owns the airspace and that the drone is so high up, “you can’t see people.”

Vidrine said he and his family first noticed the drone about four months ago when his wife’s aunt held a birthday party at his house for her grandchild.

“The drone was flying about 20 feet over our Slip ‘N Slide. It stayed there about an hour. We didn’t know what it was,” Vidrine said.

His wife began noticing that the drone would fly overhead when she was outdoors, he said.

“I let it slide again,” Vidrine said. “I thought maybe it was a little kid doing it.”

Then, he said, his wife, a horse owner, began noticing that the drone would fly overhead while she was outside practicing barrel racing.

“There are 25 acres out here (where the drone could go) and it would be 20 feet over her head,” Vidrine said.

At some point, Vidrine followed the drone through the woods to his property line and saw his neighbor with the control.

“I know he saw me coming. He ran inside,” Vidrine said.

Webre said the state Legislature passed two laws in recent years regulating drones, including one that allows farmers to use drones to photograph their crops, and the other restricts areas where drones can fly such as government buildings and industrial plants.

But Webre said that’s as far as the state has gone. “There’s no other state law regulating flying a hobby, recreational drone,” he said.

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