Drones and Privacy Laws: Over the last few years, drones have come a long way. They started as products of science fiction, and not too long after that, anyone could buy them. There are even toy drones that you can buy for your children to play with. However, these ”toys” can be troubling. And it is not only that they are loud. Usually, UAVs are also equipped with cameras. Now, if anyone can buy a drone, how could you be sure that no one is using one to watch you from a distance? It is a real problem, and we wanted to talk about it. So, today, we are looking at drones and privacy laws.
The purpose of drones
Before we dive into people’s experiences and drone regulations, let us see what drones are and what we use them for these days. And right from the start, you might be surprised that drones are not only used in professional filmography and for fun. As a matter of fact, there is a whole range of industries in which they found their place in. Here are just some of them:
- Real estate
- Delivery services
We have already written about drone service as a game-changer in real estate marketing. So, you may have heard about it. However, drones are also helping with bringing food to our table. And on top of that, they are saving lives, quite literally. For some time now, UAVs have been delivering supplies to hospitals all over the world. It is hard to see that as a downside.
On the other hand, besides all that important stuff, the drone really is a fun piece of tech to play with. So, there is no surprise because so many people have them and fly them. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, you should follow the rules if you do so.
Drones and privacy laws
Imagine this scenario: you are hanging out by the pool in your backyard, and a drone flies over your house. How do you think you would feel? Most people base their answers depending on who is flying the drone and for what purpose. But it is that none of them are stoked about the idea. And things like this are already happening.
There are cases of people catching UAVs with nets or even shooting them down from the sky. It may seem like a reasonable thing to do, but if you do it, you will end up in trouble. A drone is considered an aircraft by the FAA. And damaging, destroying, disabling, or wrecking an aircraft is a federal crime. So, no matter how annoyed you may be, do not do that. It is a much better idea to call local law enforcement, as they will know how to handle the situation.
What if I want to fly a drone in a residential area?
Currently, no law or regulation says that you cannot fly a drone in a residential area. If you are flying for fun, respecting all the regulations, and not flying in a restricted government area, you are free to do it. However, the story of drones and privacy laws goes a lot deeper. As you can see from what we talked about earlier, that might not be what you want to do.
In the time we live in, people easily get frustrated. If they think you are spying on them, who knows what they might do? Even your first neighbor with whom you are in excellent relations could do something they would not otherwise do if they knew that the drone is yours. And although they are easy to get your hands on, quality drones are not exactly cheap. Therefore, losing one for nothing is not a good deal for anyone.
As it turns out, the best thing to do if you are a drone enthusiast is to move to a more rural area. Here, you can fly your drone as much as you want, and you will not scare any of your neighbors. Just make sure not to rush with the relocation and avoid overstepping your budget. No matter how much you love flying your UAV, you should not let it compromise your move.
What about commercial use scenarios?
We only talked about personal drones until now. So, what can we expect when it comes to UAVs that are commercially used?
As things are right now, the rules for these are pretty much the same. You need to have a special FAA certificate to fly commercially, and there are additional guidelines. However, there is not much talk about privacy in government circles.
UAVs are still a new technology, and they quickly entered the mainstream. So, one might think that big companies are already flying their cargo everywhere. And although the future of cargo drones does look promising, this still is not the case.
There is no proper infrastructure, so trying to maintain drone transport on a big scale is not profitable. When the time comes for that, the regulations will be in place, and you will not have to worry about commercial drone trespassing.
What can you do if you feel that your privacy is compromised?
We explained that there are no rules against flying drones in residential areas. However, that does not mean that someone can fly a camera into your backyard and that there is nothing you can do about it. Trespassing, invasion of privacy, and private nuisances are not legal by any means. So, here is how you can stand up for yourself.
- Talk to the drone owner. If you know who the person the drone belongs to, try talking to them. If it is your neighbor, they will probably respect your request for privacy.
- Log the disturbances. It is a good idea to take pictures of the drone and write down what they did and when.
- Contact the police. If talking to the owner did not help you, or you do not know who the drone owner is, take all your evidence and call the local authorities.
- File a lawsuit. If the problems continue even after you called the police, filing a lawsuit is your last resort.
What we have here is a clear case of new technology getting out in front of policies. Hence, how we use it will determine how laws are shaped. So, if you’re planning to fly around your neighborhood, make sure to learn how to safely operate a drone in urban areas first. Respect the regulations and be kind if anyone complains.
We will hear more about drones and privacy in the future. But until then, we must work with what we have. UAVs are helping humanity in many ways, so do not jump to conclusions if you see one behind your home. Be sure that you know what you are looking at before you take any measures.