It was only a matter of time before someone stopped joking about it and actually shot a drone out of the sky.

Eric Joe was at his parents’ home in Modesto, California, flying a homemade multi-rotor UAV over the family's walnut trees. Within a few minutes, the drone was on the ground, having been felled by a single shot from neighbor Brett McBay’s shotgun.

In an email exchange (you can see the whole thing over at Ars Technica), Joe expressed concern that his neighbor had fired a shotgun at a drone flying near his person. What’s more, the drone was flying over Joe's own property, so he requested that McBay pay the $700 in damage. McBay refused, citing his discomfort with “surveillance” devices being tested near his house and arguing that $700 was an unreasonable amount. Joe took him to court and won.

Brendan Schulman, better known as @dronelaws on Twitter, says the case is unlikely to set precedent, but calls it important anyhow. “Even though it’s from small claims court,” he told Motherboard, “it supports the proposition that destruction of someone’s property is not an appropriate way to respond to the presence of a drone.”

As Schulman explains, the “verdict states that the discharge of the firearm was unreasonable regardless of whether the drone was being flown over the shooter’s property.”

In other words, the court didn’t find it to be important what the drone was doing when it was shot down. The important part is how McBay reacted.

As legal experts advise, you’re better off calling the proper authorities.

How To Deal with a Drone

Obviously, the potential for misuse of this technology is great. Though a great majority of users are meticulous about safety and totally responsible when using their unmanned aerial vehicle, this doesn't apply to everyone. Some pilots fly them close to the flight paths of major airports or major landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. The Economist has reported that in the UK, an unknown pilot tried to fly a drone filled up with drugs, a cell phone, and a screwdriver into a prison. The stories are endless: firefighting planes are grounded due to drones, people are flying drones through fireworks displays, and so on.

So how does someone deal with an errant drone?

One way to deal with it is to literally hack into the drone while it's flying. As cool as this sounds, there aren’t really many solutions out there that can handle this complex process. One such solution, SkyJack, got a fair amount of press recently, though it can only take control of Parrot drones. The platform uses its own drone that “flies around, seeks the wireless signal of any drone in the area, forcefully disconnects the wireless connection of the true owner of the target drone, then authenticates the drone, pretending to be its owner, then feeds commands to it.”

As with any drone, the SkyJack can be used for legitimate or nefarious purposes.

Assuming that hacking into a drone isn't feasible--and this chance is pretty good--an agency can try an interceptor drone, but they’ll run into the same problem as they would if they were simply shooting it down: there’s no certainty about where it will land.

A relatively elegant solution from French company Malou Tech has been getting a lot of press lately. Like the SkyJack, the MP200 features a drone that drags a net through the air to catch smaller drones. The upside of this absurd-seeming technology: the autonomous system catches illegal drones and brings them wherever you want to deposit them. It seems funny, but it's actually a pretty clever solution.

Of course, futurists like to predict that this will escalate as arms races do. At Fusion, Alexis Madrigal goes all in on a weird future scenario for drones: “There is a future in which small drones flown by terrorists and governments evolve rapidly—like predators and prey after the Cambrian explosion. Your drone gets a net? Mine has on-board scissors. Your drone smashes my scissors with a hammer? My drone deploys a shield. And on and on.”

I guess this is why Tom Cruise is going to be shooting down drones in the new Top Gun movie.