Jonathan S. lives in Lee County, Florida where he recently heard a weird noise humming over his house. According to Jonathan, “I heard the hum of it, basically, looked up, and sure enough there it was.”
What he saw was a drone, but he didn’t think much of it until he spotted the same drone again over his home while his young kids were playing outside by the pool.
Jonathan told local news, “It was definitely an invasion of our privacy. When they were outside playing, there was a drone that was following them,” he said. “Even if they tried to hide on the side of the house, the drone was continuing to follow them around.”
Jonathan says he grew even more concerned after finding out who was piloting the drone. It turns out the drone was being operated by one of his neighbors who had recently been arrested for trying to lure a child into his car.
In a report from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, that neighbor, 30-year-old Marcus Summ, was arrested last month after investigators say he was caught on surveillance video trying to lure a child into his car.
Jonathan stated, “I hadn’t really thought of the whole stranger danger, and a drone aspect put together, to realize that somebody at any time could just be following the kids around is scary.”
According to the police report, deputies spoke to Summ and advised him not to fly the drone around the neighborhood any more. They say Summ agreed. Still, neighbors say they are now keeping a close watch over their kids, especially when playing outside.
As you know, these days, drones are cheap enough that criminals who are looking to spy on others can easily purchase them. But what can you do as a homeowner?
The fact is, someone flying a drone over your backyard like the story above is no doubt an invasion of privacy, but is there anything you can (legally) really do?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects the sale of drones to hit 7 million by 2020. This growing use of drones is drawing lots of attention to the safety and privacy concerns they present. There is also a question of all the legal issues surrounding this technology.
Exactly where can you fly your drone and who owns the airspace over your private property. With that being said, I want to share with you a few steps to take in the event you find a drone hovering over your home or backyard snapping pictures or video.
Locate the operator. Drone operators are required by law to keep their drone in sight. That drone you see in your neighborhood could simply be focused on the property for sale next door or the new construction going on down the street.
It could be anything from property inspections, roofing assessments, measurements for solar installations or real estate photos are all reasons for drones to be flying low in a neighborhood. So, if the house is for sale next door, check to see if the operator is there.
If you can’t see the operator, begin recording the drone with your phone so you can locate where the drone returns to once it leaves your property.
Check the laws in your area. Many states and cities lack any specific laws related to flying drones over someone else’s property. However, even if the drone operator is following drone laws, there may be other laws being broken related to harassment or peeping toms.
Another thing is, if the drone’s noise is bothering you; check to see if your area has noise ordinances. Of course, if you think that images or video are being taken of you or your family without your permission, check the laws about privacy where you live.
Document. One of the most important things you need to catch the drone operator is to be sure to document it carefully at the time that it occurs. You want to record the exact time and date of each incident where the drone is over your yard.
In addition, get as much information as you can about the make and model of the drone and take video or pictures. If you see a number written on the side of the drone, write it down since drones are supposed to be registered. Drones have a short battery life and don’t stick around for long, so make sure to gather evidence before it leaves.
Call the police. As mentioned above, most complaints of spying or harassment don’t fall under any specific “drone laws” but relate to the laws and ordinances that prevent stalking or peeping toms.
In other words, these types of complaints should be made to local police whether the perpetrator is using a drone or binoculars to watch you or your loved ones.
Local authorities can decide if the FAA should be called if it is determined that the drone was being operated illegally or in an unsafe way to deal with those violations.
Lastly, while it may be hard to resist, never shoot at or try to interfere with a flying drone. Chances are you will be breaking the law and may end up in more trouble than it’s worth.