Cyprus Mail

Zoo owner says police inactivity left him no choice but to shoot down drone

The owner of a private zoo in the Nicosia district who shot down a drone that had been hovering over his home and business for the last two months, said on Saturday he filed a report to the police chief as he believes the force failed to protect him and his customers from privacy and security violations.

Melios Menelaou, who owns a zoo in Ayioi Trimithias, shot down a drone reportedly worth €1,700 on Thursday that was operated by a neighbour after police failed to convince the device’s operator to stop flying it over the former’s zoo and home.

After two months of constant day and night drone flying over his property and himself personally, and numerous calls to the police, which he said proved ineffective, Menelaou told the Sunday Mail, he had “had enough”.

Not only was the drone user invading his and his family’s privacy, he said, it was also causing panic to the animals, every time it hovered over them, “twice per day” and it also posed a safety hazard in the case it fell on a zoo visitor.

“The last time I called the police, I told them this is it, I’m going to buy bullets. Two days ago, when it was following me around all day long, I shot it down,” he said.

He says he was not to the only one to feel disturbed by the drone.

“Neighbours too were complaining that he would fly the drone at night outside their bedroom windows,” Menelaou said. “And zoo visitors were complaining to me as they thought the drone was mine”.

He added that when the drone first made its appearance over his home and zoo, he followed it around and saw it was landing in the yard of a nearby house, so he called the police.

“They indeed responded, and knocked on the door of that house. They told me they reprimanded the owner of the drone, and they left. Ten minutes after they left, the drone was back over my house again,” he said.

He added that since then he has called the police around ten times, and that they returned to have a talk with the drone owner again, but that failed to make it stop.

“I couldn’t take it anymore! I did not want it to come to that, I was expecting he would stop,” Menelaou said. After he shot the drone down, the owner reported him the police, who confiscated Menelaou’s gun and charged him in writing.

“I will assume my part of the responsibility but I have also launched a complaint to the police chief over the way the police station in question handled the case. I have nothing personal against them, but their inability to deal with the issue left me with no choice,” he said.

Menelaou added that since the drone user admitted the flying device belonged to him, he is now in a position to also sue him.

“The drone fell in my property when I shot it, not in an open field or anywhere else, which is another proof of his violation,” he said. The drone user could also face charges if he is deemed to have violated civil aviation rules.

In light of the fast rise in popularity of drones, the main problem is for civil aviation authorities to update laws and create new regulations. According to the law, drone users are arrested if they fly the devices over a military camp, and those who are planning to fly them over sensitive areas such as antiquities or military installations are supposed to fill in a form requesting permission.

The civil aviation department said last year the police intervene when there is a violation of privacy or there has been third-party damage such as a person being hit.

To fly a drone over populated areas insurance coverage is required, it had said. According to its online instructions, each unmanned aircraft, including drones, must be registered with them, by the owner.

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