Imagine minding your own business, in the comfort of your own home or backyard on a lazy afternoon. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an unwanted visitor peeks into your home and property, invading the one place all should feel and secure. Multiply that anxiety times ten, and you’ll have exactly what Shepherd Park Plaza resident Natalie Upton, Heights resident Chad Mason and others have experienced multiple times in the last few weeks.
“In the past hour, it has flown over our house at least seven times, hovering in close proximity over our backyard for uncomfortable amounts of time, where my young children and I are,” Upton wrote on the Shepherd Park Plaza Facebook page May 9. She went on to say the drone had been flying near her family’s home since the afternoon of May 6.
As Upton joined her husband and their new dog outside, the pair suddenly heard the unnerving noise which mimicked the sound of a swarm of bees.
“It was hovering right at our tree line, looking down at us,” she said.
The following Tuesday afternoon, Upton was playing with her children in the backyard, when it struck again.
“I heard it, I looked up, and it was about 25 feet above us, hovering,” she said. “The drone harassed us from 4 until about 4:30 p.m., just hovering, before flying off.” Later, when she took her older dog out to the front of the house, the drone followed.
“At that point I’m starting to feel really uncomfortable,” she said.
Then Wednesday morning, it was back, hovering in Upton’s car port before flying off and coming back again.
“Now, at this point I’m starting to feel harassed,” she said.
Just a few weeks ago, Mason was lounging within the arms of a comfy couch, when he looked out on his pool deck and came upon a full size drone holding steady below fence level, pointed directly into his living room in the 2000 block of Columbia Street.
“I come out, and sitting there, chest-level, is the drone. It was hovering about 7 feet off the ground (the fence is eight feet above the ground). He saw me and raised it up to about the rooftop level,” he told The Leader in an interview. “I came down the stairs, and at that point he shot it up pretty high and over the garage next door.”
Mason, on instinct, began chasing the drone out his back gate and through the back alleyway.
“At this point he’s about 50 feet up in the air and starts booking it down the alley. He knows I’m mad. I got a pretty good look at that thing—we saw each other,” he said. Mason eventually lost sight of the drone when it went down around the middle of the block on the other side of a blocked off alleyway.
In today’s day and age when the slightest slip up can result in the invasion of someone’s privacy in various forms, Mason became unnerved in the wake of the incident occurring literally in his backyard.
“I’ve got a wife and two little girls, and I don’t want some random person looking into my house,” he said.
Upton echoed the sentiment.
“There is nothing newsworthy going on in my backyard. 400 to 600 feet, getting shots of the neighborhood? Fine. 25 to 30 feet above my kids and I for uncomfortable amounts of time? Unacceptable,” she wrote.
Upton and Mason have not been alone in the sightings.
“I came outside and just heard it buzzing like a beehive—I didn’t know what it was,” added Heights resident Sharon Carter, who lives just across the road from Mason. “Then I looked up, and it was flying very close to the treetops. It jetted away briefly, then turned around and came right back (my direction).”
Lawful Drone Uses
• Professional or scholarly research by higher education institutions
• In airspace designated as test sites by the FAA
• Military operations
• Images captured by satellites for mapping purposes
• Images captured by an electric or natural gas utility
• With consent of the person who owns or occupies private property;
• For a valid search or arrest warrant
• If the image is captured by law enforcement or someone acting on behalf of law enforcement
• At the scene of a hazardous material spill
• Fire suppression
• Rescuing an individual viewed as being in imminent danger
• Images captured by a licensed real estate brokers for marketing, sale, or financing of real property as long as no individual is identifiable
• Capturing real property or a person on real property within 25 miles of a border
• From a height of no more than 8 feet above the ground in public, provided the image was captured without using any means to amplify it
• Capturing public real property or people on public real property.
• Oil pipeline safety and rig protection
• Operators must keep their drones beneath 400 feet.
Source: Texas Constitution and Statutes