Police should be able to stop a drone from spying on you. Here’s why they can't.

February 1, 2019
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Taking a picture of someone is legal when privacy isn’t expected, like in a public park or city square. But if you stand outside your neighbor’s house and record their children playing in the sprinklers, the police will take your camera away and arrest you.

It should be the same for drones. 


What can police do if a drone hovers over a pool party, then flies away? Or soars above a playground while taking video? 

Not much. Because drones are new and operate in the FAA airspace, it’s unclear what officials can do when they fly illegally. There are laws in place right now dictating what a drone can’t do—like fly higher than 400 ft, out of line-of-sight or over private property.

The law alone isn’t stopping operators. And if the drone pilot can’t be located, there isn’t much that can be done to the drone in flight.

Currently the military and certain federal infrastructure (like nuclear plants or prisons) are the only sectors that can take a drone out of the sky (known as mitigation). 

But, privacy, security and safety are challenged by drones in the neighborhood, too. 

Currently the military and certain federal infrastructure (like nuclear plants) are the only sectors that can take a drone out of the sky (known as mitigation). 

But, privacy, security and safety are challenged by drones in the neighborhood, too. 

This is being debated in Washington right now. On the 4th of July, fittingly, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security published an open letter to Congress to say the U.S. isn’t prepared for the growing threat of drones. This is because current wiretapping laws that were written in the 70s couldn’t have accounted for drones.

So what’s being done right now?

Some civilians have shot the problem away with a gun--in Oklahoma they even passed a bill enabling landowners to do so. But this is ineffective, dangerous and at odds with federal law.

Others communities have called for a ban on drones, altogether. But they’re potential good is already being actualized worldwide by saving lives, fighting fire and restoring power.

We need to optimize the good drones can do for us by regulating the bad. 

Whether a person is spying with a camera or drone, the act is equally illegal. 

And it should be as equally stoppable.