No, Mounting A Gun To A Quadcopter (Probably) Isn’t Illegal

Earlier this month, [Austin Haghwout] posted a video on YouTube of a remote controlled quadcopter armed with a semiautomatic handgun. While there are no details of this build, it’s safe to say any reasonably sized quadcopter could be armed in such a manner; just strap a pistol to the frame, add a servo, and connect the servo to the RC receiver. We don’t think this is the first time it’s been done, but has garnered the most attention.

There is nothing novel about mounting a handgun to a quadcopter. Anyone with any experience with RC flying could replicate this build, and the only interesting part of watching a video of a quad firing a gun is seeing how the flight controller reacts to the recoil. However, in the pursuit of the exploitation of a fear of technology, this video has gone viral.

The Verge calls it, ‘totally illegal’, while The Christian Science Monitor asks how it is legal. Wired posits it is, ‘most likely illegal,’ while CNET suggests, ‘surely this isn’t legal.’ In a rare break from reality, YouTube commentors have demonstrated a larger vocabulary than normal, calling the build, ‘felonious.’

With so many calling this build illegal, there should be someone who could point out the laws or regulation [Austin Haghwout] is violating. This information is surprisingly absent. In a Newsweek post, a representative from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is quoted as saying:

“ATF has reviewed the video with local law enforcement and other federal agencies. It does not appear that the device violates any existing firearms regulations…”

The Associated Press reports no state laws were broken by [Austin]. With the BAFTE and Connecticut State Police both signing off on this build, the issue of jurisdiction becomes more pronounced. How, exactly, is a gun mounted on a quad illegal?

The answer, as with all things involving quadcopters, comes from the FAA. We could find no regulations explicitly banning handguns on remote controlled quadcopters, but of all stories and posts on [Austin]’s handiwork, this is the closest anyone has come to providing the framework for calling this build illegal:

No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

-FAR Part 91 Sec. 91.15

That’s it. The closest anyone has come to providing a reason why a semiauto quadcopter is illegal: because the cartridge (and bullet), are ‘dropped’ from a quad. The Feds charging [Austin] with “dropping” a bullet from a quadcopter is like taking down [Al Capone] for Income Tax Evasion. The difference being that [Al] was a notorious criminal who had obviously harmed a large swath of people and [Austin] doesn’t seem to be harming anyone.

Although [Austin]’s video of a gun toting quad is only fourteen seconds long, a few reasonable assumptions can be made about his small experiment in flying firepower. The video shows the quad hovering a few feet above the ground. This is surely allowed by the recently published safety guidelines for sUAS users. The gun itself appears to be firing into an offscreen hillside – a sensible precaution. If the only justification for the FAA’s investigation of [Austin]’s video is FAR 91.15, he’s on easy street.

Firing Blanks With Laser Tag

glockLast year, [Tony] was asked to develop a lasertag system with ultimate realism. This meant a system that used a blank firing replica gun, and a system to detect blank rounds being fired. Very cool, and the way he went about it includes some interesting electronics.

Because the system requires a blank to be fired before shooting a laser at a target, the entire system must be able to detect a blank being fired. [Tony]’s first attempt used a piezo sensor to detect the shock from being fired. This system had a lot of noise and was ditched for a much better solution: a magnet mounted to the slide, and a hall effect sensor mounted to a 3D printed frame that turns this replica into a carbine.

A little bit of tweaking in software was required to inhibit the laser when the operator cocks the gun, but it looks – and sounds – really good. It’s also very, very realistic: the only way to shoot an opponent is to physically reload. Video below.

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Fail of the Week: Secret Agent-Style Book Hideaway

Ah, the movies are an inspiration for so many projects. How many times have you seen a spy movie where a cutout in the pages of a book are hiding something? This was the inspiration which led [Paul] and his crew to try using a laser cutter to remove a handgun-shaped cutout from the pages. The fail began before the project even got started. The sacrificial book they had chosen was too thick to cut directly so they tore it in thirds for the cutting process.

The hijinks are portrayed well in the clip after the break. The infectious giggling as this first trace of the laser cuts the outline makes the video worth watching. As they try to go deeper, the success falls off rapidly. This makes for a great Fail of the Week discussion: Why can’t you cut through multiple layers of a book with a laser cutter? Is this merely a focal length issue that would be solved with a higher-end cutter or is there something else at play here. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.


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Remote control car that packs its own Beretta


We’ve never really thought to ourselves “This RC car is fun, but it really needs more handguns”. And if we did, it certainly would not be a built to undertake with students. But to each his own. [Jerod Michel] is a mathematician working in China. He recently built the project seen above with a group of students. Look closely and you’ll notice that the remote control car includes a remote control Beretta strapped to the side.

He doesn’t have a blog post about the project, but you can find a couple of images and his build instructions after the break. The firearm has a motor attached to the trigger that allows it to be fired by tapping into one of the extra channels on the RC car’s PCB. But you won’t just be firing blindly. The project also includes a video transmitter which can be viewed from an LCD screen mounted on top of the remote control unit. There’s even a laser sight that will show what you’re aiming at.

We wonder what the recoil of the firearm does to this light-weight vehicle?

Build Instructions (.txt file)

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