Gun-toting drone prompts federal investigation

A video of a drone with a handgun capable of firing shots remotely has prompted law enforcement to descend on the drone's 18-year-old creator.

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US law enforcement is investigating a video which shows a handgun-equipped drone firing shots in Connecticut.

Posted on July 10, the 14-second YouTube video, titled "Flying Gun," shows a quadcopter drone being controlled in the woods. The operator records the drone's flight and shows how the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has been rigged with a semi-automatic handgun. The mounted gun fires multiple shots, sending the drone backwards in recoil each time.

The video has been viewed over 2.2 million times.

The uploader of the video is reportedly 18-year-old Austin Haughwout from Connecticut, US, who is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. Haughwout's father told Eyewitness News the drone was created with the assistance of his Central Connecticut State University professor as part of an academic project.

The student's other projects include "an electric Razor scooter that I modified to exceed 70 mph and maintenance of a 1976 electric car," Haughwout told ABC news.

The legal issue of equipping weapons to UAVs has been raised after the video went viral. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating and working with law enforcement agencies to determine "if there were any violations of criminal statutes."

According to Haughwout's father, the student conducted a legal search before creating the drone and made sure no rules were broken before embarking on the project.

It appears no state laws have been broken, but as drones are increasingly adopted by hobbyists and enthusiasts, the question of safe use needs to be addressed -- since remotely controlling a drone-turned-weapon raises a host of legal and criminal issues, especially when merged with the US's varying gun control laws.

It seems the only way the 18-year-old could potentially be landed in hot water is through "the careless or reckless operation of a model aircraft," which the FAA prohibits and may result in a fine.

In related news, UK authorities have issued a "dronecode" for UAV operators to make them aware that interfering with flights is a criminal offence -- and there are consequences. The set of safety guidelines was created after a "near miss" occurred between a passenger jet and a hobby craft. Since May 2014, six incidents of near-collisions have been recorded by the Civil Aviation Authority.Drone operators have been warned that reckless flying could land them in jail for up to five years.

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