Last Monday a Leader area resident was swimming in their backyard pool, and noticed a drone flying above their property. The resident felt their privacy was being violated and called the police to come and investigate the situation, which was exactly the right move to make.
Constable Alan Rosen told The Leader, “just like with any other crime fighting matter, we would obviously like people to contact law enforcement to make us aware of the situation. We want to investigate what that person is doing, because drones are not only used for fun but can be used for illegal purposes as well.”
If a civilian calls the police about an invasion of privacy due to a nosy drone, the authorities will immediately come to the property and look for the drone operator.
“The operators of drones are usually close by, and so we will follow the drone from the ground and wait until it lands and try and locate the operator that way,” Rosen said. “We will then investigate the situation to the best of our ability, and confiscate the drone if necessary.”
There are many laws and restrictions for drone usage that all drone owners should be aware of. Every drone must be registered with the government prior to any use. Following this, drones may only fly 400 feet in the air and cannot be out of eye sight of the operator. The list of restrictions changes significantly based on whether or not the drone has a camera attached.
“We are not sure if the drone we were called to investigate [in The Leader area] had a camera, but if it did it was illegal,” said Rosen. “You cannot take an image of someone’s personal property without their consent. If there was no camera, then it was perfectly fine.”
If a drone operator takes a photo or video of someone’s private property, it is classified as a class C misdemeanor similar to a traffic ticket. There is a defense to prosecution if the operator destroys the images prior to any public release of the images.
If it becomes a chronic problem, people can civilly sue the drone operator.
Aside from any snooping and other illegal uses, drones have proven themselves extremely useful in all sorts of situations.
“There are a lot of things you can use a drone for legally, like military exercises, mapping, utility inspections, real estate, and having fun flying in a public space,” said Rosen. “We use them in my department all the time. They are invaluable for high risk tactical operations, surveying flood damage, and even tracking people in a fresh pursuit. A drone can save the lives of our officers because they provide situational awareness that you can’t match through other means.”
Rosen says that drones invading private space is not a common call they receive, but he encourages people to call about an invasion of private space if it ever happens. “We want you to call us, that’s what we are here for,” said Rosen.