“Look — up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane — No, it’s a…Predator drone, which nailed you because you wouldn’t return your neighbor’s cattle after they wandered onto your property.”
That’s the lead of a report in Forbes magazine concerning the first person caught for cattle rustling after being identified by drone.
Rodney Brossart, a North Dakota cattle rancher, was sentenced last month to three years in prison for terrorizing police officers who tried to arrest him, with all but six months of his sentence suspended.
Back in June 2011, according to news reports, police attempted to arrest Brossart because he wouldn’t return six head of cattle that had wandered onto his property from that of his Grand Forks, N.D., neighbor. This resulted in what a US News and World Report story called “an armed standoff between Brossart, his three sons and a SWAT team,” which ended only after the family was located by a Predator drone borrowed from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Brossart’s family was allegedly armed with high-powered rifles, and neither party denied that Brossart told police that if they set foot on his property, they would “not [be] walking away.”
Thus, Brossart became not only the first American to be arrested with the help of an unmanned aerial vehicle, he’s now the first man going to jail thanks to the assistance of a drone.
At the time of his arrest, Brossart argued that the use of the drone was illegal, and his attorney, Bruce Quick, told U.S. News that the use of the drone and Brossart’s subsequent tasing constituted “guerrilla-like police tactics” and that the drone was “dispatched without judicial approval or a warrant.
"The whole thing is full of constitutional violations," Quick said. “The drone use is a secondary concern.”
A U.S. District Court judge denied his motion, saying that, “There was no improper use of an unmanned aerial vehicle,” and that the drone “appears to have had no bearing on these charges being contested here.”
Testing the limits
He may be the first, but Brossart certainly won’t be the last guy busted by a drone. The use of drones may be in its infancy, but there will surely be many more cases in the years ahead, as the increasingly sophisticated vehicles find new applications.
Some of them will be tiled to military operations (or combat missions), others for law enforcement or surveillance of border crossings. But with the recent “60 Minutes” segment featuring Amazon’s plans to use mini-drones to deliver packages, civilian uses of drones have also emerged.