Jul 032014
 
 July 3, 2014  Misc

CBS in Denver reports:

A drone crashed into a Brighton man’s backyard and now the homeowner wants answers.

George Ray said the drone had a GoPro camera mounted on it and was videotaping over his property located off Interstate 76 near 136th Ave. early this morning.

Ray said he heard a strange sound outside his bathroom, “All I could hear was a ‘Beep, beep, beep.”

When he looked outside he saw a drone with a camera.

“What dummy would be flying around a drone at 3:30, 3:45 in the morning? It doesn’t make sense,” said Ray.

Shortly after the drone made an unexpected landing, “This is where it landed at. Apparently it crashed right here, fell to the ground.”

So here’s the kicker: the man turns the fallen drone into the sheriff’s department, who returned it to the embarrassed drone owner. But CBS reports that “Although what happened is not a crime, it is considered out of the ordinary.”

This hits all the “creepy” notes. I suppose one could argue that if he’d never known a drone was recording his property at 3:30 in the morning, there’s no real harm. But to think that your neighbor or a stranger is having a drone hover over your property and be recording it, well, how secure would you feel in your privacy? This incident highlights some of the issues concerning drones, privacy, and the need for regulations and a societal respect for privacy.

  4 Responses to “CO: Drone Crashes In Brighton Man’s Backyard”

  1. Actually, the owner was probably not recording footage of the man’s home at all, at least not intentionally.

    These craft occasionally lose contact with the RC controller and can fly away. Most have a “return home” capability which will attempt to fly in a straight line back to the original launch point. They will also attempt to land safely wherever they are when their battery runs low.

    Since the police had the aircraft after it was turned in by the homeowner, they easily could confirm if he was secretly recording footage through windows or even hover around the house and recording. The fact that they determined it was an accidental fly-away tells me it was nothing more than an accidental crash in the man’s backyard.

    Also, since the pilot had his name and contact information on the aircraft, it is highly unlikely that he was attempting to anything illegal with it.

    What the article does for me is highlight poorly written and researched journalism and the need for careful reading. Otherwise all it does is intentionally raise concerns for laws that are not needed.

    Had the pilot been doing any wrong at all, other than being a bad pilot maybe, the existing laws would have covered any invasion of privacy.

  2. Thanks for your original post and your reply. I do understand the concerns, especially in an environment where our government is spying on all of us in various ways, without warrants. I do have a personal interest in this issue for a variety of reasons and thought I would offer some additional perspective on prospective legislation being suggested.

    As an amateur nature / bird photographer, I have the most powerful professional telephoto lenses made by Nikon. They’re used specifically by sport and bird photographers, as well as law enforcement. I could easily take photos through my neighbor’s window without them knowing. Of course, existing privacy laws would cover that. And, to my knowledge there is no outcry for a ban or further regulation of telephoto lenses on cameras.

    My interest in nature photography , and in hobby RC toys (we host at-risk youth groups at our waterfront home on the Chesapeake and need lots of things to keep them interested) caused me to look into the new multi-rotor aerial photography platforms. First, they are incredibly easy to fly. GPS technology allows you to let go of the controls and it hover perfectly in place. If the wind pushes it, it will auto-correct and return to its spot in the sky. Second, the new GoPro cameras take great high-resolution still and video images. Third, you can get pretty good, near-professional quality aircraft and camera setups for less than $2,000, making it affordable to many.

    The potential for commercial use was immediately obvious, although not of interest to me personally. High-end realtors are using aerial fly-overs and even interior fly-through video images on their web sites. Farmers can inspect crops, irrigations systems, fencing, herds etc. easily and inexpensively. They were even used to inspect cracks in the Washington Monument after and earthquake hit the DC area. They are useful in search-and-rescue activities, firefighting, and disaster management. For example, when a Corvette museum floor collapsed into a massive sinkhole last year (sending dozens of rare Corvettes into the depths), a hobby “drone” was used to descend into the sinkhole and send back clear video and still images of the damage, helping authorities decide how to approach the disaster.

    So no problem, right? Except the friendly Obama administration FAA declared unilaterally that any commercial use of these without their permission is punishable by a $10,000 fine. Their test case was against a hobby RC pilot who, at the request of UVA, filmed a campus fly-through for their website. He got a nominal fee, and a $10,000 fine by the FAA, even though there are no laws on the books governing the activity.

    On appeal, an NTSB judge overturned the FAA, stating that Congress must pass laws before they can prohibit use of this technology unilaterally. However, the FAA is continuing to threaten realtors and others with cease and desist orders and threats of fines while they appeal the NTSB decision.

    So, the entire hobby is in a state of limbo. Some pilots fly recklessly, most do not. But we all expect the FAA to come down hard on all of us based on their attitude to date. The national park system recently banned all aerial photography after seeing online posts showing eye-popping footage of waterfalls and wall-climbers in Yosemite and other parks.

    In my opinion, noisy multi-rotor aircraft are not often going to be used to try to peak through windows, other than maybe by a teenage kid. And, if they are, the existing privacy laws that cover all types of privacy invasion are adequate.

    The bigger concern is use by our own government conducting warrantless searches. And, there need to be stronger rules governing safe flying, although many in the hobby think existing guidelines that have worked for 30 years for RC aircraft are adequate.

    I have friends who do aerial photography from airplanes and helicopters, at a cost of over $100 per hour, and this technology opens up that creativity to many others who would otherwise not be able to afford it. I encourage readers to search YouTube for quad-copter or drone videos to see what can be accomplished.

    Thanks again for your post.

    • I’ve actually looked at some of the drone videos, and some are beautiful, amazing, and make me consider going to visit an area – in other words, good for tourism. But the thought of having a drone in my backyard does creep me out. If one crash-landed in my backyard, I don’t know if I’d turn it in to law enforcement, or keep it and wait to see what happened next.

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