“What is with the drones at the beach…and I saw it around town? Is it videotaping?”
“I did not know what it was…my wife told me it was a drone…having to endure a boat plane on the beach, and now this…”
“This ordinance (a drone ordinance) is much-needed in Cape Charles. We were at the public beach on Sunday when a drone was hovering above videotaping sunbathers.”
With more and more drones being operated by private citizens, the question becomes, how intrusive are they, and is their presence a violation of privacy? Does Cape Charles need to take a closer look at drone operations not only at the beach, but also in and around town? The Town of Bethany Beach recently passed new ordinances as a way to enforce safer and less obtrusive usage of drones.
The FAA has passed new rules for drones, which could be used to craft a Town ordinance. The new rules include:
* They must weigh less than 55 pounds.
* The remote pilot must maintain a visual line of sight of the drone at all times.
* Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle.
* Daylight only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
* Must yield right of way to other aircraft.
* May use visual observer, but not required.
* First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
* Maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
* Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level or, if higher than 400 feet AGL, remain within 400 feet of a structure.
* Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
* No operations from a moving aircraft.
* No operations from a moving vehicle unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area.
* No careless or reckless operations.
* No carriage of hazardous materials.
* A person operating a drone must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds a remote pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).
What the new FAA guidelines do not address are privacy and information gathering. Non-commercial drone users might fly over the beach, your backyard or anywhere else they want to see.
With drones flying over the beach and around town, are they using apps that are tracking our every move, as well as collecting personal and sensitive data? There should be a reasonable expectation of privacy (the Town ordinance does cover that), so it shouldn’t matter how the privacy was violated, whether it is done physically, or remotely.