As drones are becoming more popular and technology is moving much faster than lawmakers can regulate, issues of privacy and harassment are beginning to pop up. Recently, we told you about how drones have been banned from Yosemite National Park, and earlier this month, a drone was actually seen at Zion National park separating a group of young bighorn sheep from their herd. While there are not yet specific regulations from all national parks, many of them have adopted an anti-drone policy, and the move to ban drones from all of these animal sanctuaries seem to be inevitable.
But what about drones in the general public? The FAA has ruled that drones used for commercial purposes be banned, but there are no solid regulations about drones for the common hobbyist who can pick up a drone for a few hundred dollars. Last week, an American Airlines pilot reported nearly hitting a drone over Florida, which raised major questions pertaining to air safety and the unmanned aircraft. If a drone were to collide into a passenger airline engine, “it would be catastrophic,” says a representative from the FAA.
Not only are questions arising about forbidding drone usage for the sake of protecting natural habitats and air safety, there’s the debate of the military drone use, and now a woman is claiming that she was sexually harassed by a man armed with a drone on a beach in Virginia. A redditor known as Forthelulzaccount describes her account with a drone while sunbathing on a private residential beach,
We heard this whirring noise above us, and I looked up and saw a remote-controlled plane — one of the square ones that can move really articulately in all directions. No big deal. I turned back down and napped more.
Then I noticed: A. It was getting really close to women… flying really low, staying there for probably three minutes at a time; and B. It had a camera on it.
She realized what was happening, and states that the other women on the beach were getting uncomfortable. When the drone came close to her, she stood up and considered throwing her water bottle at it, which caused the machine to back off. This made her realize that the operator must have been close by. As she looked around, she spotted a man and a teenaged boy on a nearby sand dune, and went to confront them.
She recounts on Reddit that she told them the drone was, “seriously creepy,” to which he replied,
‘It isn’t going to hurt you.’ He sort of laughed at me now, and I saw red here.
‘I’m not worried about my PERSONAL SAFETY, though I am now worried a bit for YOURS. Your drone is creepy and violating. You need to take it out of the air, or I will.’
‘Fine, it won’t go near you.’
‘No, I need it out of the sky. Now. You are violating every woman on this beach. Get it out of the sky.’
Eventually, she convinced the two to pack up their drone and leave.
Virginia does not have a clear cut law prohibiting non commercial drones in public areas, and though Forthelulzaccount was on private property, the law is still nebulous. Currently, only a handful states have unmanned aircraft laws in place, but situations like this bring up major privacy and personal space issues on public property. Then there’s the issue of Peeping Tom laws; On private property, the use of a drone to spy would be illegal, but in some states, the law applies only if the Peeping Tom is present. In public though, that issue is still a gray area.
Some may argue that drones can serve as a powerful tool for many; for journalists in getting aerial footage of breaking news stories; real estate companies in getting the best footage to help sell properties; farmers to survey crops; for non-profits to deliver medicines to remote communities; firefighters to fight wildfires…etc, etc. But where is the line drawn? Where should lawmakers focus their attentions first?
Clearly, the issue of the legalities regarding drones should be addressed, and ASAP. Right now, the laws in place are patchwork at best, putting out fires as issues arise.
What do you think? Should drones be banned from private use? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.
[Via @Daily Dot]