For years, I’ve been the butt of jokes because of my politics writings, along the lines of, “You gonna get droned one of these days.”
Well, I finally got ‘droned’, but it wasn’t the federal government who did the deed.
At least, I don’t think it was the government because the drone was really small and whoever was flying it was interested in residences along our street and across the street.
I was sitting on the deck, a copy of the bestselling political soap opera Shattered in hand. I had a cup of coffee handy because if you’ve tried to read that ‘autopsy’ of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, it is not exactly a page turner. I felt duty bound to read it because of what I do.
Other than occasional whiffs of smoke from all the woodland fires around us, Sunday was a gorgeous day. As I waded into gossipy tales of political egos and divas, I heard a loud humming. I stood to see what it was because it sounded like a swarm of wasps headed my way.
Imagine my surprise when a small drone buzzed right across the length of my pool, continuing on to the next neighborhood. For about 30-40 minutes, the drone swept our back yard, the street behind us, the neighborhood behind the condos across from us, and the neighborhood down the street.
I have no idea who was at the controls.
I have no idea whether this operator was using his device legally.
I do have an idea about how annoyed my neighbors must have been. The sound alone, if your hearing is sharp, is very unpleasant. Then I thought about that drone swooping across our pool and very private back yard and I fretted. My granddaughter is often in my back yard. My lovely daughters like to swim and sun back there.
Was the operator just goofing off with his toy? Was he, like one operator in Jacksonville, allegedly trying to capture photos of lovely young women in skimpy bikinis? Could he be someone using a drone to get info about back yard entry in a burglary plot? I don’t know.
I realized I don’t know much about the legalities of droning.
So I searched on the Web for starters. I learned you have to register your drone with the FAA and mark the drone with the official numbers. I saw no numbers visible on the drone spying in our neighborhood.
I found an extremely disturbing video dated September, 2015, at YouTube: Flying my drone at Grandpa’s in Florida, spying on neighbors.
If that drone recorded what those unsuspecting neighbors were doing, and the neighbors weren’t told, that is a violation of Florida law. The neighbors weren’t on a public street.
What leads parents to think it’s okay their kid is ‘spying’ on anyone?
That’s another debate, I realize.
I found an article about drone regulations in Florida at Tampabay.com from 2015. Media have reported there are some laws or regulations, including this:
“You can’t fly higher than 400 feet above the ground, and the drone has to be within sight throughout its flight. And you shouldn’t fly it above people or moving vehicles.”
The droner who set his craft flying on Sunday was definitely flying above people and moving vehicles.
There’s also this from the same article:
“In short, it’s illegal to take pictures from the air of someone or their property without permission, as long as they have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
So spying on your neighbors from the air? As of July, when the law was enacted, that’s illegal.”
Our back yard is completely fenced—it has to be because of the pool. Shrubbery and trees around the perimeter add to what amounts to a lot of privacy. So I definitely have a “reasonable expectation.”
I have the name of a contact at our local sheriff’s department. I plan to call him when he gets in later today. He’s supposed to be a go-to for info about drones.
Personally, I think those craft are neat and interesting. I can see where they’d be fun, flown in open areas where there’s no danger of a craft falling and injuring someone and in the hands of an operator with common sense who isn’t interested in ‘spying’ on others who have a moral right to their privacy.
Getting ‘droned’ at last wasn’t fun. It set many thoughts into motion, and I’ll be looking further into regulations and practices in order to know my rights. Seeing the drone swoop overhead, listening to that annoying buzz repeatedly as I tried to enjoy valuable free time, I was not a happy camper and not disposed kindly to whoever was operating that little gadget.
I admit I also worried about our area hawks. They don’t like that sort of noise humming loudly close above their nests.
My younger daughter came to visit me that day, and when she pulled into the drive, she asked me, “What’s with that drone?”
I plan to find out as we enter an era where privacy as a moral right is being completely nullified, and not just by federal bureaucrats.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/May 9, 2017)
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