Welcome, Amateur Skynet…

No, it is not a speeder bike on Endor...

Inventive, yes.  Dangerous, yes.  Fun, I’ll bet!  Seriously though, should we be concerned about amateur assassin drones?  How long until we have Action Pistol competitions that are done by drone?

It doesn’t look that technologically challenging to do.  It seems like you’d have to be super careful about the angles and how it is mounted so that the recoil doesn’t cause the drone to rotate into a dangerous direction.

Legally it just seems like this *has* to violate something–or maybe I’ve just been conditioned to think that way over the years… 🙂

So, let’s get a discussion going.  What is the gun that is mounted?  What laws, if any, does this break?  How hard would this be for the average “Joe” to construct and build?

Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


  • mike207

    It’s a Kel-Tec PMR 30

    • Giolli Joker

      .22WMR a decent caliber with limited recoil.
      Legally, I recall that such electronic trigger could automatically fall into “machine gun” category as you could easily program the system to shoot the full magazine in a burst at a single press of the button.
      This, if it’s on US soil.

      • MR

        Apparently, it’s in Connecticut. According to the MSN newsfeed on my work computer, an investigation has been opened.

  • M.M.D.C.

    Why does the recoil always seem to result in a loss of altitude?

    • Ryan

      Because the recoil causes the drones front to lift. One way to change altitude with a four rotor drone like this is to change the “angle of attack” tilting the drones nose down would cause the drone to both move forward and up. Tilting the drones nose up will cause it to move backwards and down. The only way you could avoid this is to program the drone to compensate every time the weapon is fired.

    • Budogunner

      This is a typical quad copter build. That means it isn’t actually a ‘copter’ per se. It uses 4 propellers to generate thrust rather than rotors. Propellers are fixed pitch, so altitude and orientation can only be controller by spinning up or slowing down the appropriate combination of propellers.

      Based on the behavior, I’m also guessing this quad has an IMU equipped flight controller and it was set in “hover” mode.

      So, when the noise jerks up, the thrust is ‘vectored’ down and to the front. The flight controller must reduce speed on the forward props and rely on gravity to bring the nose back down. The recoil process takes a while from the computer’s perspective, all the while it is being pushed by recoil and vectored thrust to the rear.

      We know the front props must be in low speed or even free spinning, so what should be done with the rear props? The flight controller could boost rotation to bring the tail up, but in doing so it will be pushing itself further up and to the rear. Instead it cuts power slightly to reduce rearward movement and then slowly adds rotation back when the quad gets closer to level.

      On a prop driven quad it would make more sense to keep the bore axis below the props, so the front props could spin up to compensate and the vector induced by recoil would be rearward, pushing air to the rear to fight recoil while the nose worked to lift again.

      A true, rotor driven quad could even adjust pitch of the forward rotors to push air up, compensating for recoil and potentially allowing the quad to stay consistently pitched regardless of orientation when firing. Rotor quads are more rare, and I would hope their users would have more sense.

  • USMC03Vet

    Incoming .30 magazine assault clip barrel shroud 30 rounds in 1 second drones

    Only the politicians can save us.

  • Matt

    The most convincing law I’ve seen it run afoul of is the NFA. It looks like it’s fired by a software controlled solenoid, which the ATF considers readily convertible into a machine gun, since it’s just a software update away.

    • MR

      Literally, a machine gun.

  • Anton Gray Basson

    Yeah pretty much illegal anywhere in the world.

    • Kelly Jackson

      Could you cite that law for us please?

      Or are you just another internet LOLyer practicing law without a license which actually IS “pretty much illegal anywhere in the world”.

      • Tom

        As I understand it (I am no lawyer and I won’t pretend to be one on the internet) the FCC has complete jurisdiction over anything flying and much like the Bureau of Land Management they have statutory authority to decide what is and is not legal as they please. So if they say its illegal (and they have in the past) then it is – at least as far as the courts are concerned.

        • Budogunner

          That is still somewhat under contention. The FAA WANTS that level of power, but had never had it over the RC community in the past so they are trying to classify drones as aircraft.

          Unfortunately, nobody has successfully and clearly defined what a drone is our how it is distinct from a regular RC bird.

        • JK

          The FAA maybe? The FCC is radios and the like.

          • Tom

            Hey not only am I not a lawyer I am not even an American 🙂

          • JK

            Of course, it is RADIO controlled. So the FCC might get involved.

      • Budogunner

        Usually, it is the NFA definition of a machine gun combined with constructive intent. When software controls an electronically actuated trigger the difference between semi- and full-auto is one line of code.

        I’m not aware of any legal case specifically about electronically actuated triggers so there is no legal precedent I’m aware of yet.

        The closest case I can think of is the Akins Accelerator. While initially approved by the ATF, they later ruled it a machine gun by claiming the user no longer directly operated the trigger once per round fired. Even though your finger hit and released the trigger separately every time, they claimed the use of a spring to automate the bump-fire process made something other than the actual trigger the trigger. Think of the finger rest on the slide fire stock, the Akins had a similar component and the ATF decided that became the new trigger.

        Ultimately, it was the spring that mechanically pushed the gun back into the finger on the finger rest that the ATF objected to and all owners were forced to forfeit the spring. This is also probably why the rear of the slide fire butt stock has an open hole to the buffer tube. This prevents a creative individual from inserting a length of buffer spring between the buffer tube and the (non-existant by design) interior wall of the buttstock. Were that possible, it would function as the Akins did.

        So, though I’m not a lawyer, based on the NFA definitions, the precedent set by the Akins ruling, and their general hated of legal work arounds, I expect the ATF would rule this an MG on the grounds that the software is too easily modified to fire more than one round per pull off the “new” trigger on the remote.

        Again, I’m no lawyer, but that is what I foresee based on current law and prior ATF rulings (that Unconstitutional have the effect of law).

      • Southpaw89

        I can’t cite the law by name but I recall reading that Oregon has recently banned, or is working on banning mounting weapons on RC aircraft, I expect other states and the federal government to follow.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    This is freaking awesome.
    There are videos on youtube of an AA-12 full auto shotgun mounted on an RC copter.

    • Budogunner

      I think that was FPSRUSSIA’S channel, and that was a fake in promo for the new Call of Duty or Battlefield game, whichever. He ended the video by flying out into a car and “remote detonating” it. That is a feature in the game, too.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        No, this is for real. Its not that guy.
        Do a search for “Neural Robotics AA-12 Autocopter”. If its fake it sure looks real and I know that was a configuration Jerry Baber tried to interest the government in to no avail.

        • jcitizen

          Looks like he had difficulty keeping it pointed at the target – possibly because the guns weren’t synchronized.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            I want one of those guns. Bad.

  • Bill

    Is it a First-Person-Video piloted drone?

    • Budogunner

      I didn’t notice a camera or video transmitter, but the video quality want great.

      • jcitizen

        It looks like it could have a small Go Pro for sighting the gun, but I didn’t analyse it too closely.

  • ruinator

    There is a conspiracy attached to this, just not sure which one…

  • 1013

    This reminds me of when some guys put model rockets or bottle rockets on a model airplane and shot them off 10 plus years ago…..it was determined that it would be legally considered to be something like a guided missile. that was many years ago, and I do not remember the law that was cited.

    Also, isn’t there some FAA rules that prevent guns from being mounted on airplanes? that is why all the old WWII fighter planes have the guns removed or disabled.

    Machinegun rule might be an issue. but if you just mount a single shot, then this would not apply…..I think the FAA would be the governing body for this thing.

    • jcitizen

      I’m not sure, but it could be that all hard points in aircraft come under the GCA ’68 Omnibus part of the act. They frown on anything giving aircraft destructive capability, as I guess it may be technically a destructive device all and of its own. This includes marine craft.

  • Lance

    Next the plasma rifle in the 40 kilowatt range LOL!!!

  • Budogunner

    Having built a done copter, I regard this as highly reckless. There is too much that can go wrong with those things and the stock firmware for the flight controllers aren’t built with firearm failsafe in mind.

    • Jay Bee

      I would have to say it’s not that reckless. One controller for the flight software and one for the firing systems. You could use two servos for the trigger. One on a hard switch and one on say rudder. Could be made very safe.

      You could also put a relay on the flight controller to shut down the firing system with a relay.

      I won’t partake though.

  • wildbillb

    question isn’t if its illegal or not. question should always be “how hard is it to make this”. criminals are typically lazy and dumb, so as tech gets simpler and easier to use it will be adopted and used.

    it is already illegal to use a firearm in a crime…

    next question is how to take over the drone and “send it home” like Will Smith did in Independence Day. Our only hope.

    • jcitizen

      Most of the drones I’ve priced have an automatic “go home” function, in case you lose radio control of the aircraft. They go to a predetermined GPS coordinate and land, and shut down.

      • wildbillb

        so simply ‘send it home’ with the servo-trigger still ‘on’.

        • jcitizen

          Woops! Heh! Heh!

  • grendel

    I cannot wait to see what Michael Bay will do once he watches this

  • Tassiebush

    I know I read somewhere (probably here) about a ww2 aircraft privately owned in USA complete with machine guns but they couldn’t fly it with machine guns installed but when installed and used for ground based firing it was lawful. I’d guess it’d come down to whether drones are covered by same legislation?!

    • jcitizen

      I know a guy who got around all the problems by running a museum! He even had jets with weapons hard points still on the wings! I think this would be a violation of the 1968 omnibus section of the GCA. However, he was well known in the area and wasn’t hiding anything. In fact he got into the business of trading with foreign countries to enhance his “museum pieces”. I was blown away when I found out about that! A local guy here kept a Japanese type 99 that was not demilled, and got away with it because it was a museum open to the public. it is a wonder somebody didn’t walk off with it. as it wasn’t even secured!

  • Martin M

    I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

  • Joe Ker

    Wonder what kind of groups he’s getting?

  • Hickstick

    Well, if it aint illegal now, I’m betting it will be soon.

    • Southpaw89

      Beat me to it, on a side note I would have stood behind it rather than to the side and slightly in front while firing.

  • noob

    If you had a safe space from which no bullets could escape in any direction (like the bottom of a mineshaft cleared of people), could you have some kind of sports league where real people would pilot armed drones and perform force-on-force room clearing where the drones would shoot at each other with real bullets?

    To save money for everyone, you could attach a paper target that hung from the drone’s belly – hits could be scored on the paper target, and shooting the drone itself would be considered a “foul”.

    • Doc Rader

      Like a “battle bots” with teeth… 🙂

    • Ben

      There was a whole thread on Reddit talking about just this idea. It could probably just be done out in the middle of nowhere. 5 miles of empty space in every direction.

    • MR

      How about just skipping the paper, and using paintball gear instead? Not as cool as “live fire”, but safer for people and wallets.

  • #datamine

    IANAL* but they should get one.

    * I Am Not A Lawyer

  • Robert_A

    This violates FAA regulation pertaining to civilian aircraft. Civilian aircraft and civilian drones cannot be legally armed. If the FAA or the FBI decide to investigate this kid can be facing heavy fines, I believe it is a $500,000 fine. I apologize for not knowing the exact regulation.

  • HM

    And this is why we gun owners have a bad reputation with the non-gun owners. Thanks moron, you just initiated a wave of new regulations.

  • The Brigadier

    There was a Russian guy who used to put videos on YouTube. He was murdered and the Russian cops never found his murderer. In one of his vids he had a four bladed rotor that he mounted a .410 shotgun on. He flew it around blasting human dummies that were seated around a picnic table. His early drone was also pretty stable like the one in this vid, so the trick is to shoot mild calibers. The theory is this guy pissed off his government and some Russian alphabet agency offed him. We’ll never know, but he did fly the shooting drone about four or five years ago, so he was he first civilian to do it as far we know.

    Sam’s club sells a four rotor drone right now for 99 bucks and some change if you want to mount your own .410 or Kel-tec pistol. I wonder if Congress will change its mind and ban all drones from our skies. By the way, Obama wants 30,000 drones by 2020 and his administration continues to fund this program every year. We might all want to buy one just for self-defense.

  • Jay Bee

    I am sure this is illegal.

    One must remember if you jump in the air in your yard you have left your property and were for a second in United stated air space.

    I don’t see why people should be upset though. Our president has the authority to use something like this to kill people in other countries with a press of a button.

    I’m sure they care over there though.