Have you ever had the unusual sight of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, peeping you through your window? And by the time you summon someone to see it, it vanished, leaving you wondering what to do?
It’s not the first time that house owners had a close encounter with a drone and such incidents are becoming common, because of the rising number of drones. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the number of small UAVs owned by hobbyists has reached 1.1 million in 2017. It is expected to hit 2.4 million by 2022, while the commercial fleet, used by private companies, will grow from about 110,000 to nearly 452,000 by 2022.
There is considerable concern about privacy, and people don’t like to have drones flying around their houses and not be sure if they are videotaped or photographed. In some cases, people have shot down UAVs hovering over their properties.
But this can potentially lead to serious legal woes because unmanned aircraft of any size are protected by federal law. Someone accused of shooting down a drone can also face local charges.
Shooting down a drone is an illegal and inappropriate response. So what can you do if you feel that a drone is spying on you?
Understand what is going on
In most cases, the drone you see in your neighborhood is probably nothing to do with you, even if flying at low altitude. It might be merely doing its job or taking generic footage of a property for sale next door, or the new construction site.
Property inspections, roofing assessments, solar installations, or real estate photos are other good reasons why drones fly low in your area. Besides, the battery life is far too short for any serious spying. Most commercial drones have only 20-30 minutes of flight time at the very maximum. Therefore, it’s essential to understand what’s going on.
Find the operator
The law requires commercial operators to keep their drone in sight. If you can see the operator, approach, and ask the reason. But you may need to wait until they finish the flight, as for safety, they need to concentrate on their controllers. If you don’t see or can’t locate the operator of the drone, which is hovering over your house or near the window, you may have a legitimate complaint.
Check the laws
Before you file a complaint, check the privacy laws in your area. If the drones’ noise is something that bothers you, check to see if your area has noise ordinances. If you suspect that images or videos are being taken of you or your family without your permission, check the privacy laws in your region.
Very few areas like Hollywood have specific ordinances against the use of a drone for the purpose of taking pictures of people’s property. If you don’t like a drone flying over your property, there isn’t much to do since the FAA clearly says that the airspace is regulated by federal authority and the homeowner may not restrict aircraft.
File the complaint
Finally, contact the police with a description of drone and relevant information. Take pictures of the drone if you can. Record the exact time and date.