Watch firefighters blast drone out of sky with hose

In drone versus firehose there is one clear winner. But was the drone controller invading privacy, or are the firefighters guilty of destroying his property?

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

As drones become more prolific, people are starting to form two camps: those that love them, and those ( like this chimp) that think they're privacy-stealing, hazardous nuisances. Guess which side a group of firefighters from upstate New York were on?

As the firefighters from Montgomery and Coldenham in New York were working to put out a house that had caught fire on June 4, a local man named John Thompson decided to fly a drone over the scene to film the proceedings. The firefighters put up with the drone for about 10 minutes and then turned their fire house on it, in what looks to me like annoyance. They send another blast its way about a minute later.

You can see the water blast at about the 12-minute mark in the video above -- just after one firefighter points out the drone to another holding the hose.

Thompson says that his drone is now damaged and wants the fire company to pay for a new one to the tune of $2,200. (On a side note, the drone looks like a DJI Phantom 2 Vision to me, which really costs about $1,000.)

On the other side of the argument however, local police are investigating if Thompson broke any laws, according to a news report on News 12 Hudson Valley. The station also reports that "off camera," the local district attorney said that "unlawfully surveilling someone with a drone is illegal, but public events are generally allowed to be (filmed)."

The debate about who's wrong and who's right in this situation has naturally taken to Thompson's Facebook page. "If the press is allowed to film a fire call I have the same right to do this. Look for the law that says I can't," posts Thompson.

Watch this: Firefighters testing new technology after Hot Shot deaths

"I will say one thing: If my house were to burn and I saw that drone above my property, it wouldn't be there very long," says Facebook user Mike Townsend in the comments. "I do NOT want my house being recorded if it's on fire or for whatever reason by some drone."

It's a tricky argument and one that is only going to intensify as our friends, neighbors, the police and even Amazon get the ability to invade our personal airspace. Was Thompson's video a solid piece of citizen journalism (it is well-filmed), or was it a blatant invasion of the homeowner's privacy?

Which side of the debate do you fall on? Have your say in the comments below.

(Via Riot)