I hate to drone on…

Last week, a drone flew into the window of my bedroom and bounced onto the road below. The sheepish pilot stood a distance away, asking me to throw the drone back to him. As I threw it, a piece fell off. ‘I’ve got another bit here, what is it?’ I was told it was the battery, and to throw that down too. In hindsight, I should have kept it.

I didn’t have time to ask what sort of drone it was as he sauntered off, or what it was doing so close to our flat. I live in Suffolk Terrace, and we see people flying drones a lot. The question is, should they do it so close to where we live? UK law states that drones should be kept under an altitude of 140 metres, and 50 metres away from property. Needless to say, this man’s drone was a bit closer than that. It may have had a camera on it. Even if it didn’t, I felt incredibly violated. I had friends in my room, and they were equally unsettled. The windows in the Ziggurats aren’t exactly difficult to look into, but there’s a difference between passers-by having a quick peer at the kitchen and an individual steering their drone to hover outside your bedroom window.

Drones have caught an unsavoury amount of media attention, not so much over issues of privacy but of disruption. The Gatwick drone incidents that took place over three days in December 2018 stranded thousands of passengers, and left airport operators concerned for passengers’ safety. The government responded by promising tighter laws, a requirement of drone-flying permits and so on, but what about drones that capture video?

From a quick search online, there appears to be nothing legally protecting individuals from drone-mounted cameras. Of course, there’s the usual line of respecting your neighbour as they may not want you to film them, but what good does that do? It doesn’t imply consequence or punishment; there’s no threat to drone pilots who fly their vehicles outside your bedroom window.

There aren’t sufficient protections of individual privacy when it comes to drone footage. I don’t want to point fingers, but there’s no reason someone should fly a drone so close to a building, let alone a row of bedrooms. Without laws protecting me from whatever that drone may have filmed, I think I’ll just have to close my curtains more often.

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Oliver Hancock

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October 2021
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