Can flying photo drones be shot down?
In Germany, a neighbor used a rifle and shot down a drone flying over his garden. The owner of the drone filed a complaint for damage to property and demanded compensation. The neighbor argued in the proceedings that his personal rights were at risk of being violated because he assumed that the drone was taking photos while over his property and relied on the legal principle of "self-help" (Selbsthilfe).
In Austria, "self-help" is defined as an encroachment on foreign legal interests in order to enforce an existing right. In a constitutional state, the basic principle is that one must turn to the state authorities to enforce one's rights. Self-help in Austria is only permitted in exceptional cases. For example, if official help comes too late, the owner can defend his property.
The court in Germany held that shooting down the drone was "proportionate", as otherwise the owner of the drone would very likely not be identified because the police would arrive too late to be of assistance.
Also, in Austria it is valid that the force used for the defence does not exceed the measure necessary for the defence, the possible injury of the interests of the attacker may not be out of proportion to the danger of the attack. However, it remains to be seen whether such an approach would also be held to be proportionate in Austria, and whether this decision will be followed in such cases in Austria.
Authors: Serap Aydin & Wolfgang Tichy