This Flamethrower-Equipped Drone Looks Like a Legal Nightmare

By Bryan Lufkin on at

The same Connecticut teen whose shotgun-outfitted drone video went viral this summer is back—this time with a flamethrower attached to an unmanned aerial vehicle. Reminder: there is currently no law in the US formally banning individuals from weaponising drones.

The video, uploaded to YouTube on Monday by drone enthusiast Austin Haughwout and entitled “Roasting the Holiday Turkey,” shows a UAV in the woods with a homemade flamethrower strapped to it, incinerating poultry by remote control. The video description includes links to HobbyKing.com, where many of the parts were obtained. Also used were “a significant number of 3D printed parts, wiring, soldering, and miscellaneous parts.”

No doubt it’s fun to watch, but is it a good idea? What if it started a fire? Comments on the YouTube video are pretty divided: “Videos like this make everyone interested in the hobby look irresponsible, and damages how multirotors are viewed by the public,” one user wrote. But another said: “If I mount a gun or a flamethrower on my SUV would that give trucks a bad name? OMG, the government might ban SUVs then.” Another: “This is all Iwant for the holidays now.”

The Verge reports that, although the Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation after Haughwout posted the video of a gun-equipped drone firing shots in the woods in July, the Feds ultimately turned it over to local authorities. Like the Feds, they also decided against pressing charges after it was decided Haughwout wasn’t technically breaking any law.

Local TV station WTNH reached out to the Haughwouts this week, who said there were buckets of water, hoses, and fire extinguishers nearby when this latest video was filmed. WTNH also contacted local authorities, who had no comment on the matter.

It’s worth pointing out that we’ve seen flame-throwing drones in super controlled academic settings before, but this one built by a hobbyist seems to be a first for the internet. And as far as non-civilians with weaponised drones go? In August, North Dakota became the first state in the US to legalise armed police drones.

This Christmas season, drone sales are expected to be the highest they’ve ever been—over 400,000. In the near future, it’s important for us to make sure people will be using them in a safe way.

[WTNH Connecticut News and The Verge]

GIF via YouTube.