Drones, as in unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs), come in all sorts of distinct shapes and sizes. While the larger ones are skilled of raining death and devastation down from above are held in reserve for military operations, smaller ones intended for more recreational events can be bought for some hundred dollars.
This increases the very real vision of someone flying a drone around your neighborhood. Perhaps unknowingly, or perhaps for more immoral reasons. But what would you do if that drone floated over your property?
A similar situation occurred with me a few days back. I was deskbound in my home office, occupied in this very column regarding neighbors getting into urgings over drones when I heard a bizarre buzzing sound outdoor. I looked up, and flying 20 feet from my window was a black drone with a camera pointed at me.
At first, I was troubled and felt snooped upon. Maybe it’s because I’ve become accustomed to the reality of being watched 24/7, whether it’s through surveillance cameras or Internet browsers. I see a slight difference between a drone soaring near my window, and someone standing crossways the street with a pair of binoculars. Both can peer closely into my office.
But most probably, I might be in the minority here. When I revealed it to my wife, she was annoyed by the intrusion and briefly planned to buy a shotgun, should my neighbor’s drone reemerge near our bedroom window. Unlike binoculars, she claimed, a drone can actually come on your property and see from more offensive vantage points.
Not astonishingly, the regulation has not caught up to the technology. In 2013, a lawmaking branch agency within the Library of Congress that provides scrutiny to Congress printed a report, “Integration of Drones Into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues,” that cautioned of the various ways in which drones could be used for “pestering, harassment, voyeurism, and eavesdropping.”
But the report also identified that “determining whether a drone in flight is intruding upon one’s property may be remarkably challenging.”
In some ways, the privacy apprehensions being raised about drones echo those from previous technologies.
Some lawmakers and consultants believe that if a drone were to fly on top of your property, you could possibly file a public complaint against your neighbor. And in some states, drones soaring into your window could be considered a criminal act, too.
But as that 2013 Congressional Research Service report notified, it’s all still very unclear. Congress is presently working on a bill to control recreational drones, which is probably to address privacy, including air rights around people’s households.
Until then, some assistance may be on the horizon for those who don’t want to be detained for shooting down a drone. The space has allowed for new inventions to fill in, such as the “drone catcher,” which is a dedicated drone that can shoot a net (just like Spider-Man) and catch a drone in the air, incapacitating it but not terminating it.