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Private Drone Wars

Here’s a legal question:

Do I own any of the airspace above my property?  If so, how high up? If not can somebody float camera-laden drones up to first and second story windows without breaking trespassing laws? How about following a person walking on their private property or in public by hovering uncomfortably  nearby their personal space? Flying over privacy fences or at an angle to peer over them?

Well, this story raised all these questions:

Animal rights group says drone shot down 

A remote-controlled aircraft owned by an animal rights group was reportedly shot down near Broxton Bridge Plantation Sunday.

Steve Hindi, president of SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness), said his group was preparing to launch its Mikrokopter drone to video what he called a live pigeon shoot on Sunday when law enforcement officers and an attorney claiming to represent the privately-owned plantation near Ehrhardt tried to stop the aircraft from flying.

“It didn’t work; what SHARK was doing was perfectly legal,” Hindi said in a news release. “Once they knew nothing was going to stop us, the shooting stopped and the cars lined up to leave.”

He said the animal rights group decided to send the drone up anyway.

“Seconds after it hit the air, numerous shots rang out,” Hindi said in the release. “As an act of revenge for us shutting down the pigeon slaughter, they had shot down our copter.”

He claimed the shooters were “in tree cover” and “fled the scene on small motorized vehicles.”

Read the rest here.

Generally, laws permit you to film (but not always audiotape) people in public but not always where an expectation of privacy exists and certainly not via criminal trespass. If I own thirty acres, and your drone flies up to my house you have negated the value of owning so much property as to keep the public at a reasonable distance.

I can see how people might not find that acceptable and might start using strategies to discourage that. If I “accidentally” crash my drone into yours (Oops! Sorry) a court might perceive that as a risk entailed in such hobbies. I beam your craft with my DIY energy weapon and you are out $300 and can’t legally come on my property to retrieve it.

Or maybe, if I know who you are, I buy a drone and send it out after you. Or, if I have a screw or two loose or are from the shady side of the street, worse.

This could get seriously out of hand.


16 Responses to “Private Drone Wars”

  1. Lexington Green Says:

    One correction:  WILL get seriously out of hand.

    I must also say that the pigeon hunters did a nice job shooting down what was likely a small and elusive target.


  2. zen Says:

    Yeah, will get out of hand. We will need to go through EM chambers to kill microdrones following us and embedding on our clothing before going into sensitive business or government offices or places where privacy is normally expected (doctor’s offices etc.) and we will “sweep” our homes for drone bugs like mafiosi do.

  3. Venkat Says:

    I think I just read that there is a 400 ft ceiling and a law against commercial use of drone footage. This story seems to have stayed away from those limits though.

    I am frankly a bit puzzled by how drones are suddenly a hot political topic.

  4. Andy Says:

    From what I remember airspace is controlled exclusively by the FAA and their regulations stipulate a minumum 500ft altitude.

  5. zen Says:

    Hi Venkat
    The political angle on drones is driven by those who oppose current US military and foreign policies for various reasons. COL. Bacevich below thinks that drones make unaccountable war by the POTUS too easy:

    Others oppose drones bc they are effective weapons in American hands against the leadership of rural insurgencies. Taliban and AQ leaders have retreated from FATA to Pakistani cities, leaving provincial commanders and the perennial target, AQ 3rd in command, to bear the brunt of drone attacks. Dense urban areas provide the best cover (at least until somebody like the Mexican cartels acquire DIY predators, who care not a whit for civilian deaths). There’s a lot of specious legal arguments by lefty humanitarian law activists who decry drones as “illegal” and “war crimes” but how they differ from, cruise missiles, artillery, sniper’s bullets or arrows seems to be left unclear

  6. Michael Robinson Says:

    I see an emerging  market for domestic, or small scale, ground based air defense systems.

  7. PB Says:

    Here are the Federal Aviation Regs. Not sure if there are exceptions for UAVs.

    Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:
    (a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.
    (b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
    (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

  8. Chris Says:

    On comment 2, I imagine you’ll see more and more “clean rooms” for meetings. That would make a great deal of sense. Supplemented by signal jammers set up to block common bandwidths in the rest of the building. It’ll be a pain, because we all like our cellphones, but equally, we all like not being sued by our clients when their info goes missing.
    Look at the ‘phone hacking’ (its not hacking) scandal in the UK. Why break into people’s phones when you can use mini drones with audio (or better yet) video pickup to just follow them 24/7.
    Hmm, this gives me an idea for a blog post.

  9. David Says:

    So, how is this any different (save only the high-tech angle) from snoopy Mrs. Cravitz peeking out from benind her curtains to see wnat sort of witchcraft Samantha is up to today? 

    There are “snoop” drones, and there are “predator” drones, and far nastier engines are in the works.  Welcome to the 21st Century.

  10. Lexington Green Says:

    This is all right out of The Diamond Age, actually, as so much of the emerging world so frequently is.  


  11. February 20, 2012 – Is Privacy Passing Away | thebeaconsglare Says:

    […] What happens when these surveillance drones leave the federal hands and find their way into private hands?  Privacy is at even greater risk with no federal guidelines limiting their actions.  And, there is always the possibility of (cue Star Wars music) a drone war! […]

  12. M Says:

    Can’t wait for the Reality Kings voyeur drone paysite. It should convert well.

  13. Raging Prude Says:

    People who do not like being spied on will take steps to decommission surveillance drones they discover snooping around their homes, businesses, and clubs. Whether one believes this is a good thing or a bad thing, it will continue.
    As a result, surveillance drones will have to become cheaper to produce and to use. Such drones will one day become so ubiquitous as to resemble swarms of bugs in some instances.
    Larger drones will be deployed with smaller ones, the smaller ones being harder to identify. The larger ones will be expendable, expected to be taken out so as to encourage the false impression that an area has been successfully fumigated. The smaller ones will eventually be smaller than a cockroach, and just as capable of hiding from the occupants of the properties they infest. And, just like the cockroach, for each one you see there will be many more you don’t see.
    Methods will develop to keep these infestations at bay, which will prompt development of more and more sophisticated penetration technology. It will become an arms race of sorts.
    What a colossal waste of resources, all due to insatiable lust for power and control.

  14. ZZMike Says:

    Note to self:  do not send a drone to an aerial shoot.  (Unless you can surveille at 10,000 feet.)

  15. Odds 'n Sods: - SurvivalBlog.com Says:

    […] Also from Kevin: Private Drone Wars […]

  16. Chainsaw Says:

    Note toself: when sending drones to aerial shoots, use large decoys and small drones.  Balloons work well, and are biodegradable.
    RagingPrude captured the most important part.

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