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Insights & Thoughts

Woman Claims to be Harassed By Drone While Sunbathing

By Hanssie on May 15th 2014

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.

Photo Credit: Don McCullough/ Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Don McCullough/ Flickr Creative Commons

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.

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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 wildfiresetc, 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]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Whyy

    How about a licence, like a dog or cat licence. tag the drone with a visible registration number and if it gets too invasive or annoying then it can be identified and reported to the police.
    that would limit the paparazzi use over stars homes and still let them be used for the wedding photography and the farmer to survey their crops.

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  2. Jeremy

    I own one of these little devices and think their potential is amazing. Pursuing complete bans of things simply because they have the potential to be misused is frankly idiotic. Common sense regulations and even permitting within certain airspace makes total sense.

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    • Ranalli

      There’s been some neat shots with drones that couldn’t otherwise be done but I’m for banning them outright.

      In any country you don’t base your laws around the most competent or moral, you base your laws around the least competent and most unethical folks. Everything from speed-limits to gun laws are generally determined this way. I’m completely safe and comfortable driving at 120mph and my car is well maintained to do so. Why must I drive at 55? Because most people are completely inept sh!t drivers…that’s why.

      But the sheer lame fad element of these units also annoys me just like people attaching GoPros to their helmets when skiing so they can make some lame video of them going down the bunny slope. I’ll be damned if I’m going to step out in public with a swarm of these things over my head…I’ll literally take them out of the sky myself.

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    • Didrik

      Your example of the speed limit for cars directly contradicts your point of banning multi’s.
      If we were to follow your logic directly about banning drones you should be in favor of banning cars as well.
      Cars are a potentially dangerous tool (like Multi’s) , so we created rules, regulations, and safety measures instead of banning them.

      The same can be done with these Multirotars.

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    • Ranalli

      It’s not contradictory – it merely displays the need versus the luxury. People and society need cars to go on with their lives and what we gain from them vastly outweighs the problems caused by them.

      Nobody needs a drone and few will miss them. They don’t have nearly the same impact that cars had, have, or will have on our lives.

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  3. Nick

    There are cameras on me all the time; when I walk down the street, when I take public transit, when I’m in my building at work… doesn’t bother me one iota.
    I realize it’s different for everyone, but frankly, I personlly couldn’t care less if there were cameras on me at the beach. I always look good.

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  4. Rick

    In the world we live in, it’s unfortunate, but I agree that banning is the best way to go. Unfortunately, idiots will always exist who use technology in unethical ways. While it is indeed mass punishment for all, we need to remember that it’s the fault of those creeps that ruined things for everyone.

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  5. ICBM

    It is only a matter of time before these things are grounded. First time a small child (or similarly sympathetic victim) is seriously injured it will become a media firestorm quickly followed by politicians falling over themselves to ground them. Bonfire of the Drones you might call it.

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  6. Luka

    Drones should be banned from public spaces, or allowed only with a permit from local authorities. Imagine in 1-2 years, they become cheaper, you go to a beach and what you see is not sky, and you have to wear a helmet all the time…

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  7. Daniel

    Should cameras be banned from private use? Should long lenses be banned from private use?
    If that drone didn’t have a camera on it, will she done the same thing? The drone is only a device to be a peeping tom.
    In the case above, I agree that it is a breach of privacy. But banning is to much.
    I don’t have a solution to offer. But if they banned drones because of this, what’s next?

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