How Low Can Drones Go?
from the question-questions-questions dept
As we've pointed out in a few stories, drones aren't necessarily something to worry about. Like any technology, they can be used for good and bad purposes, and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. But determining where exactly the line between acceptable and unacceptable lies is tricky, as the following story from the Capitol Hill Seattle blog shows:
This afternoon, a stranger set an aerial drone into flight over my yard and beside my house near Miller Playfield. I initially mistook its noisy buzzing for a weed-whacker on this warm spring day.
So how close does a drone have to be to someone's home before it becomes intrusive? Clearly, at some height the air is part of the sky commons that belongs to everyone, as a famous 1946 US Supreme Court decision laid down:
The air is a public highway, as Congress has declared. Were that not true, every transcontinental flight would subject the operator to countless trespass suits. Common sense revolts at the idea.
The post continues:
After several minutes, I looked out my third-story window to see a drone hovering a few feet away. My husband went to talk to the man on the sidewalk outside our home who was operating the drone with a remote control, to ask him to not fly his drone near our home. The man insisted that it is legal for him to fly an aerial drone over our yard and adjacent to our windows. He noted that the drone has a camera, which transmits images he viewed through a set of glasses. He purported to be doing "research". We are extremely concerned, as he could very easily be a criminal who plans to break into our house or a peeping-tom.
Those sound like reasonable concerns. So does that mean that drones with cameras need to fly further away from the property of others than those without, so that the images they capture don't invade people's privacy? How might we set that distance? These and related questions are starting to be posed more frequently, as more drones enter our skies. At some point, we will need to start coming up with some answers that most people find reasonable.