Authorities are looking into a YouTube video that has gone viral after featuring a drone carrying a loaded gun firing shots into a wooded area in Clinton, Connecticut.
The Federal Aviation Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Clinton police have all launched separate investigations into the video to find out whether the drone's operator violated any laws surrounding the use of drones.
The 15-minute video, which was posted by 18-year-old Austin Haughwout of Clinton, has gone viral over the last few days since it was posted, garnering more than 2 million views as of press time. The video shows what appears to be a homemade remote-controlled quadcopter hovering off the ground, mounted with a semiautomatic handgun, which is seen firing four shots at an unknown target outside the frame.
Haughwout's father, who remains unnamed, tells CNN affiliate WFSB that the drone was developed by his son with his professor at the Central Connecticut State University as part of a school project. He also tells the AFP that the media are making a mountain out of a molehill in an attempt to instill fear about drones in people.
"I don't understand why people are making such a big deal of it. It's not like it's anything new. He's a mechanical engineering student. He builds all different kinds of things," Haughwout's father says. "People have been playing with RC toys for many decades. The proper name for this is an RC quadcopter. The media keeps using the inappropriate word because it helps you to generate fear."
Haughwout's father also says that the drone's flight was limited to the confines of the family's residence, and no complaints were raised by their neighbors after the video was taken. Haughwout also conducted his research into laws regarding drone flights before operating what he calls the flying gun, his father says.
Nonetheless, authorities are adamant about looking into whether any laws were violated. Connecticut, in particular, recently looked into legislation about drones, which Clinton police chief Todd Laurie calls a "gray area" that caught lawmakers "flatfooted."
"We are attempting to determine if any laws have been violated at this point. It would seem to the average person, there should be something prohibiting a person from attaching a weapon to a drone," says Laurie. "At this point, we can't find anything that's been violated."
The U.S. military uses drones mounted with missiles used to target terrorists abroad, but this is the first time authorities have to deal with armed drones operated by civilians.