Drones: Your privacy and their right to fly

15 Finds Out Flyover airs Thursday night at 6.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Just days after the Secret Service launched their investigation into a drone crashing at the White House, drone privacy and safety is once again up for debate.  With drone technology taking off at lightening speed, federal officials can barely keep up in terms of regulating it.  Believe it or not, experts NewsChannel 15 spoke with said by the time you buy one of these multirotors off of the shelf there are already two or three new models already in design.  So, what is it and why are so many people rushing out to buy one?

For the record:  Difference between drones and multirotors
Chances are when you hear the word drone, you think about an unmanned military aircraft that can take out enemy targets. Well, that’s not what we’re taking about. These are called multirotors and are relatively small devices.  About the same size as some RC airplanes and helicopters.

Many of the multirotors come with a camera already attached or with a way you can easily add a camera.  Something especially appealing to photographers.

Not just for fun

You might be surprised to learn other industries are jumping on the multirotor drone bandwagon.  David McNight manages Phil’s Hobby Shop on Jefferson Boulevard.  He has sold drones to everyone from hobbyists to realtors to construction companies.

“…what are the safety precautions going to look like and the future? The FAA is still working on that.”

“Instead of buying a cherry picker or something that costs thousands of dollars to rent, you can use this (multirotor aircraft) for multiple jobs to see where structure is damaged,” Manager of Phil’s Hobby Shop David McKnight explained.

“We have all seen aerial photography from helicopters, but you can get a lot lower and closer to things and I think that is the biggest advantage of drone photography and videography,” photographer and multirotor pilot Brendan Keen said.

Brendan and his partner Nathan use drones for their photography business.

“We actually started with a hexacopter we built ourselves, and once we were comfortable with that we went to this because it can carry a more serious camera.”

The elephant in the room:  multirotors and your privacy
As of now, FAA regulations ban pilots from flying drones higher than 400 feet.

You might be wondering what 400 feet looks like.  Here's a picture of the tallest building in Allen County - the Indiana Michigan Power Center downtown.  It's 442 feet tall and 27 stories.  That means pilots could fly no higher than the 25th floor of the building.
You might be wondering what 400 feet looks like. Here’s a picture of the tallest building in Allen County – the Indiana Michigan Power Center downtown. It’s 442 feet tall and 27 stories. That means pilots could fly no higher than the 25th floor of the building.

Something most hobbyists are okay with, but they tell NewsChannel 15 the frustrating part is when people think they’re using drones to invade peoples’ privacy.

“People are interested in using them for aerial photography and video, they are racing them. If you were wanting to spy on someone it would be a terrible technology to use. Because you heard how loud it is. You’re not going to sneak it up behind somebody. So, honestly if you are worried about someone spying on you, you should probably just get rid of your phone and your computer because they are far more likely to have problems with that than using a drone,” photographer and multirotor pilot Brendan Keen said.

“It is amazing how much you can see and how far you can see with it without spying on anybody,” Manager of Phil’s Hobby Shop and rc aircraft pilot David McKnight explained.

Multirotors saving some industry experts thousands of dollars
David McNight manages Phil’s Hobby Shop on Jefferson Boulevard.  He has sold drones to everyone from hobbyists to realtors to construction companies.

“Instead of buying a cherry picker or something that costs thousands of dollars to rent, you can use this (multirotor aircraft) for multiple jobs to see where structure is damaged.”

Perfect example is what officials in Adams County are doing.

“The price tag on the device was right around $32,000. If we were going to do everything we can do with this device it would had cost us around $350,000 per year to do it. So, it was a massive amount of savings,” Director of IT, Adams Co. Government Landon Patterson said.

See the comparison for yourself: here’s a picture of a ditch that was taken by a camera on a helicopter.  Here’s a picture taken of the same ditch with a drone.

“Quite a bit of different departments use it: our assessor’s office, auditor’s office, our surveyor’s office for their drainage, and a lot of real estate companies use it as well when they are trying to research a property.”

Current FAA regulations
Recreational use

  • Follow safety guidelines
  • Fly no higher than 400 feet
  • Contact airport/control tower before flying within 5 mi of an airport
  • Follow local laws & ordinances before flying over private property
  • Do not conduct surveillance or photograph people without permission

Business use

  • Apply for an exemption from the FAA to operate commercially
  • Apply for an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA)

Public entities

  • Federal, state government agencies, police, public colleges/universities canreceiveaCOA
    • Reapply every two years

Gallery: Examples of available Drones

Indiana state law on unmanned aircraft

During the 2014 legislative session, House Bill 1009 was passed.  Governor Mike Pence signed it into law on March 26, 2014.  Indiana was the first state to pass UAS legislation.

What it prohibits:

  • Law enforcement:
    • Requires law enforcement officers to get a search warrant in order to use one (drones/multirotors/UAS), with certain exceptions
    • A law enforcement officer cannot force a person to provide a passkey, password, or keycode to any electronic communication service, electronic device, or electronic storage, or any form of stored electronic user data without a valid search warrant issued by a judge.
    • A law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency cannot use a real time tracking instrument that is capable of obtaining geolocation information concerning a cellular device or a device connected to a cellular network unless certain conditions are met.
  • You at home:
    • Anyone, besides a law enforcement officer or governmental entity who has obtained a search warrant, who knowingly or intentionally places a camera or electronic surveillance equipment that records images or data of any kind while unattended on the private property of another person without the consent of the owner or tenant of the private property commits a Class A misdemeanor.

Law as written:

Requires a law enforcement officer to obtain a search warrant in order to use an unmanned aerial vehicle…

Requires a law enforcement officer to obtain a search warrant in order to use an unmanned aerial vehicle, with certain exceptions. Exempts electronic or video toll collection activities and facilities from certain restrictions relating to video and electronic surveillance and data collection. Provides that a law enforcement officer may not compel a person to provide a passkey, password, or keycode to any electronic communication service, electronic device, or electronic storage, or any form of stored electronic user data without a valid search warrant issued by a judge. Prohibits a law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency from using a real time tracking instrument that is capable of obtaining geolocation information concerning a cellular device or a device connected to a cellular network unless certain conditions are met. Provides that, except for a law enforcement officer or governmental entity who has obtained a search warrant, a person who knowingly or intentionally places a camera or electronic surveillance equipment that records images or data of any kind while unattended on the private property of another person without the consent of the owner or tenant of the private property commits a Class A misdemeanor. Establishes a procedure to use electronic mail to apply for a warrant. Provides immunity from civil and criminal liability for certain entities that provide information pursuant to certain court orders. Provides certain procedures for the issuance of search warrants concerning electronic communication service or remote computing service that affect the law concerning a journalist’s privilege against disclosure of an information source. Urges the legislative council to assign to a study committee during the 2014 legislative interim the topic of digital privacy, including: (1) issues related to searches of electronic devices, compelling the disclosure of electronic user data, the collection and use of geolocation information, and the collection and use of biometric information by government agencies; and (2) any other issue concerning digital privacy and related subjects.

To read the entire document, click here.

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