As drone popularity increases, so should privacy laws


This AR. Drone has two cameras, sensors, and a small embedded Linux system on board. This particular model cost around $300, but other models can be purchased for as cheap as $100.

Anthony Nathan

In June of last year, Lisa Pleiss, a Seattle woman reported a “Peeping Tom” recording her from the 26th floor of her apartment complex. The alleged “Tom” was not in a tree or fire escape. He was operating an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or what is commonly referred to as a drone.

“It was freaky,” said Pleiss in a USA today article. “You don’t expect to be walking around indecent in your apartment and then have this thing potentially recording you.”

In court it was found that the “Tom” was taking photographs of the Seattle skyline for architects and within the perimeters of the law, according to USA Today.

However, this incident is still part of a series of drone related cases that are challenging what should be the aerial boundaries of these micro-helicopters.

Not long after the Seattle incident, a tourist crashed his drone into Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring at Yellowstone National Park. A more publicly known incident occurred in September when a man was arrested for flying his drone over the U.S. Open, operating it 50 yards outside the venue, according to CNN.

There will be more accounts like these in the future, right now, there is very little legislation on UAVs in the United States.

Whenever new technology is introduced, the American public is forced to reinvent how it looks at “privacy.” However, it never halts for a moment of moral contemplation.

Yes, it will make watching a sporting event more exciting and yes, it will lend a hand in emergency situations like finding a lost child in the woods. But questions must be asked. Will having omnipresent aerial cameras operated by your neighbors be the end of backyard parties? Sunbathing? Doing anything with the windows open?

Professionalism and integrity should be embedded in the operators of drones because the power of having a moving, aerial camera and being able to will it from miles away has limitless possibilities. At the cost of, once again, our privacy.

This is wishful thinking. There is little stopping someone from misusing these drones because the law has not caught up with the technology.

The official authority on drone operation for civilian use is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). There are rules of conduct and safety that the FAA and other aeronautical associations provide in hopes that people will use drones responsibly.

Also, accessibility is not an issue for a would-be enthusiast. On Amazon they offer a few models to choose from with the price ranging from less than $100 to more than $2000.

“This is an industry waiting to explode. This is an industry waiting to change the way we see our world,” said Parker Gyokeres, owner of Propellerheads Aerial Photography, in an interview with CNN.

States are currently dealing with drones at their own pace and the FAA has delayed its verdict on commercial use of drones until 2017. Everything is up in the air, including the drones.