As the number of quadcopters increases in the air, the normal folk’s worries about losing their privacy also increases progressively. We can say that drones are becoming a new way of entertainment, surveillance, and stalking or spying (in some cases). Due to this, individuals raise concerns over their limited number of options to respond appropriately, especially when the drones are covered under the Federal Aviation Law.
Drone spying is a threat to your privacy. While you can use tricks to judge whether a drone is breaching your privacy or not, it is illegal to shoot it down. Your best course of action includes requesting the operator, know the law in your area, document the drone, and lodge a formal complaint.
Before you rush into taking careless action, let’s understand the ways and methods to check drone spying.
How Do You Tell If A Drone Is Spying on You?
Even though it is a harsh truth, drones have made it easier for anyone to spy and stalk on you. Where you can figure out if someone is spying on you physically or via social media. Yes, there are ways to find out your spy on social media. But when it comes to drones, the operator can be your next-door neighbor, your childhood friend, colleague, or anyone and spying from a distant location depending on their drone’s range.
Reports have been pouring in regularly about peeping drones disturbing the peace of people in almost every region. Recently a French tourist was held in Iran for drone spying. A Woman in St. Louis was frightened when her daughters saw a drone outside their washroom window.
Her statement was, “I’d like some privacy, and I don’t want to feel like I/m being barricaded in my house.” Numerous similar sightings have made people fear and sometimes retaliate by shooting them down or taking other extreme measures. These were the people who caught the drone spying on them, but there may be numerous more cases where the victims might not know that they are being spied on.
Before you can take any action, it is important to know if a drone is spying on you or here for a generic reason.
- Visual Drone Detection: One of the most evident ways to check for a spying drone is to observe the camera face. If the camera is facing you and it is steady at the same angle, or you see a drone is following wherever you go, chances are you are being spied on.
It is easy to figure this out when you are inside your home or within its vicinity, but judging whether someone is spying on you in a public area is quite difficult. Because in that instance, even if you report it, the operator can deny doing any such thing.
The second issue with this type of screening is the drone’s evolution into becoming more discreet and smaller. Moreover, when equipped with tech-savvy cameras and added with a noise-free operation, you may not even get a chance to raise a doubt because you cannot see or hear the drone.
However, there are other ways to visualize a drone’s presence and spying.
- Drone Detection Radars: Just like there are systems built to detect flying objects including aircraft and even foreign objects coming from outer space, there are terminals built to detect smaller objects like drones.
The best part is that these small detection devices are available for public use, and you can install them on the house roof. Robin Radar has been pioneering in this direction by designing and creating new technologies to detect, classify, locate, and track them following by sending you alerts about their presence.
The company has built industrial-grade systems like Elvira that are a bit bulky. Still, they have been used to protect airports, official summits, and other critical infrastructure areas, enhancing the security net.
There are other detection systems like Radio Frequency (RF) Analysers, Acoustic Sensors (big microphones), and optical sensors. However, radars are the most appropriate option for household use as they are easy to install and use.
Now that you know how to detect a spying drone let’s explore the options you can take to tackle the issue.
What To Do In Case a Drone is Spying on You?
You can take several measures after detecting a drone that is spying on you. In any case, we would not recommend any offensive action.
Can I shoot down a drone?
No, you cannot shoot down a drone. Some people might get inspired by the “drone slayer” William Meredith and start raining down bullets on every drone, even if the quadcopter is meant for surveillance purposes.
Shooting down drones is illegal as they are covered by the Federal Aviation Authority. Even though the law dictates otherwise, people have shot down drones in the past, and the results were not good for them.
Gerard Chasteen shot down a drone in Long Island, New York was charged with criminal mischief and use of weapons. This is because drones have the same legal protection as any other aircraft, be it a Boeing or a Cessna. So, if you cannot shoot down an aircraft, you cannot shoot down a drone.
Another reason to not shoot them down is Lithium polymer or lipo batteries. These are highly combustible batteries, and they will instantly catch fire. So, if you shoot a drone above your house, it might cause a fire on your property. Secondly, drones are registered and the property of another person who has rights to claim compensation in case of property damage.
Can I use an RF Jammer to Ward Off the Drones?
Using any type of jamming equipment meant to block the radio communication between authorized devices intentionally is not permitted. It will be considered as an offense under federal law. Yes, security authorities like police and first responders are allowed to use jammers, but that is also in the interest of ensuring national security.
RF jammers do not only interrupt the drone’s communication with the controller but can also disrupt the radio communication between other devices. For example, using a jammer can also thwart the communication between the emergency vehicles present in the vicinity.
Ergo, it is clear that you cannot shoot down a drone or use a jammer to disrupt its signal.
So, What Shall I do If there is a Drone Over my Property?
First, let’s make one thing clear that the airspace above your property is not yours to claim. The FAA controls and regulates the airspace, and this includes the one above your property. So, any drone that is flying over your house is not yours to knockdown.
Moreover, when it comes to a drone hovering over your property or yourself, “Expectation of Privacy” comes into action. In simpler terms, you cannot expect to get privacy in a public space. Just as a TV cameraperson can see you through their lens, the drone operator flying the quadcopter in a public space can do the same.
Another instance is that when a drone is flying over your house, and you are out sunbathing or having a swim, the same expectation of privacy rule applies. Because any other type of aircraft can observe you from the air, and they are not restricted – by law- in doing so. The drones can do the same.
You may now ask what if the drone is peeping into the house through the window or listening to my conversation. Well, these are some extreme cases as the drones have eyes and ears.
So, they can see what you are doing inside the bedroom or what you are talking about on the porch. Or, if you are talking on the phone in a public place, you have the right to claim a reasonable expectation of privacy. In this case, a drone spying event can be claimed as stalking or harassment, which in some states is equivalent to a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
What shall be My Course of Action here?
When you come across a drone trespassing onto your property and breaching the reasonable expectation of privacy rule, you can take prompt action. Here’s what you can do.
- Request the Operator: By law, hobbyist drone operators are required to keep their drones in sight and under 400 feet. So, chances are the operator will be close to the drone. Try to locate them and ask them not to fly over your house.
- Go by the Law: Make sure that you go through the State Laws in the US pertaining to drones. When the state does not have direct laws about drone restrictions, there may be other types of rights that a drone can breach. For instance, some states have noise ordinances that you can invoke to protect yourself from drone spying.
- Documentation: One of the most important things to do is gather evidence. Drones are supposed to be registered with their unique code. If possible, you should take pictures and record the time plus date when the drone came over your house.
- File a Complaint: Based on the documentation, you can file a complaint with the FAA and your local police station. The police, along with the FAA, will work to certify the intent of flying the drone before they can determine its legality.
You should not worry about the drones flying at an altitude from where people are indistinguishable. Most probably, the operator is only taking pictures of the landscape or shooting a video for his YouTube vlog. Only when a drone comes disturbingly close should you take the appropriate action. In any case, shooting down a drone or throwing a drone net over it is not recommended.