Pennsylvania’s State Police is investigating the alleged shooting of an aerial drone that was being used by an animal rights group to record a bird shoot being held at a commercial hunting club in Hamburg, Pa., which is about 45 miles east of Harrisburg.
On Nov. 18, 2012, SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), which is a registered nonprofit charity, was using its “Octocopter” remote controlled aerial drone to record images of a “live pigeon shoot” being held at the Wing Ponte commercial hunting grounds in Hamburg.
SHARK had been using the drone to videotape the activities at the pigeon shoot for nearly the entire day, when, at about 3 p.m., “a single sharp rifle crack rang out” and the drone’s video feed terminated, says Steve Hindi, the group’s president who was piloting the Octocopter.
The drone went out of control, but Hindi was able to regain control by switching to full manual flight and the damaged drone was brought in “for a hard landing,” says Hindi. While damage to the drone is estimated at around $4,000, a SHARK staffer says the unit can be repaired, Hindi adds.
“Shooting a drone is an extremely dangerous act,” Hindi said. “What we were doing was completely legal. Someone at Wing Pointe is obviously so scared of our evidence that they are desperate to stop it, and they are willing to risk causing injury to keep that footage from becoming public.”
In addition, SHARK staff at the scene was outfitted with small cameras, and they were able to record all of those who were still at the Wing Pointe club immediately after the drone was shot down, according to Hindi. Only about five or six of the shooters remained at the club, said Hindi who is confident the image of whoever shot the drone was recorded and that video will be turned over to the state police. Further, SHARK plans to post the video it recorded on YouTube.
Pennsylvania State Trooper David Beohm tells Government Video that how useful the video supplied by SHARK will be depends on how good the video is. “Without seeing the actually video, I can’t say if it will be useful.”
In addition, the state police are investigating two things. The first is did someone shoot SHARK’s Octocopter? The second is did SHARK legally fly its drone over the Wing Ponte hunting club? “We want to be sure that group didn’t commit a crime by flying the Octocopter over the property,” said Beohm, who added the investigation continues.
Wing Ponte officials did not return calls for comment.