A Southern California man’s relaxing day at the beach came to an unpleasant conclusion this week. After taking down a drone that was hovering over his group of friends by throwing his T-shirt at it, Augustine Lehecka found himself behind bars at the Vista County jail, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Lehecka told the newspaper he “felt threatened” by the low-flying drone, which had four whirling blades and was equipped with a mounted camera. Out of concern for his friends’ privacy, he said he tossed his shirt toward the drone, knocking it into the sand. Ten minutes later, he was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on suspicion of felony vandalism and taken to jail.
Lehecka was released eight hours later after posting a $10,000 bail, according to the newspaper.
On Tuesday, however, the district attorney’s office declined to press charges against Lehecka.
The aircraft belonged to a pilot who works for a drone company, who said he was not invading the group’s privacy and suffered $750 in damage from the drone’s crash landing.
Recreational drones have become a headache for California officials, who say they’ve interfered with emergency crews‘ efforts to fight wildfires currently raging across the state. The U.S. Forest Service reported that drones sent by curious spectators eager for firsthand views of the flames have interfered with firefighting aircraft in 13 wildfires so far this year.
Though commercial drone traffic is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, personal drone use is not monitored by any government body. As drone prices continue to plunge, the Consumer Electronics Association has predicted U.S. sales will reach 700,000 this year.