Picture the scene. It’s a hot Summer’s day and you’re enjoying a cold something in your back garden. Suddenly, overhead you see a drone. You might well be jumping straight to Google to ask – can a drone fly over my house – and what is in place when it comes to protection from drones?
It’s a good question and whilst there are international laws that differ, we will try and give you a general overview to the laws around flying drones near your home and discuss the options you have when you want to protect yourself from drones
Emerging threat of drones for residential properties
So firstly – what’s the threat level? After all, drones don’t seem too threatening at first glance. They are a great tool for capturing images, delivering medical supplies, research, such as assessing damage after a storm, for commercial purposes such as deliveries and as something fun for hobbyists alike.
However, as recent news of airport shutdowns has highlighted, drones can have a sinister side.
Combining distance between pilot and device and with high tech capabilities, drones are a way for nefarious characters to disregard aviation regulations and access data on number plates, properties and possessions, as well as people. Nerve gas or explosives can be deployed via drones, representing a threat to high end residential properties in particular and protection from drones is becoming a business in itself.
Whilst the law prevents drones being flown over congested areas (which could be a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for ‘residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes’) you may still see one above your home.
With the new GDPR protection laws in place, many of us already have a heightened awareness of the richness of our personal data and may worry about its whereabouts. Drones represent a way for our data and personal privacy to be compromised, so learning how to protect yourself from drones is becoming pressing for many individuals.
You me be asking if there is protection from drones in Aviation Law. What you may be surprised to know is that when it comes to the law on drones, the general consensus is that 50 is the magic number – specifically, 50 metres. If you haven’t been alerted that a drone will be in your area undertaking an inspection, or even if a hobbyist is planning on taking photos, then if they are closer than 50 metres to you or your property – or even a structure (perhaps an outhouse or conservatory) then they will have broken the law. It is at this point that many people rightly want to look into defence against drones.
So, what does it mean when it comes to your privacy?
It’s clear – privacy laws dictate that no one is entitled to film or photograph you if you have ‘a reasonable expectation of privacy’. Many celebrities have challenged this (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge won damages of £92,000 from the French edition of Closer in 2012 after it published topless photos taken with a long-range camera). Drone capabilities vary but can include video cameras, microphones, GPS and high-powered zoom lenses that all make taking personal images very simple, even above that 50m aviation law restriction so when it comes to your privacy, you will probably be right to have concerns about how to protect yourself from drones and in particular, the images that they capture.
The issue for any homeowner or business is knowing precisely why the drone is there. After all, without seeing the published photos in a glossy magazine, you can be hard pressed to know if they have taken images of you or if the drone was en-route elsewhere for a legitimate purpose. Even if they are flown at 60 feet (technically free air space) then seeing where the lens is directed can be a challenge. Rightly, many people who see a drone are suspicious. On top of that, protection from drones isn’t just as simple as identifying one device – there are multiple brands, makes and models.
Flying Over Private Property
Whilst many people have totally innocent intentions as a hobbyist drone or professional pilot, we have to consider that when it comes to residential or private property, motives may be more sinister. It is reasonable that a drone may fly over a private property (at a height above 50m) to get to somewhere else, but if filming is occurring, this is an issue and it is trespassing as if they had walked into your garden with a camera.
Defence against drones: What to do
If you are worried and believe you may have been filmed, you can speak to the drone pilot (if you can locate them) and ask them to stop, or speak to the police. In the UK that means calling the 101 number, not 999. They can advise if the drone has registered to film for a commercial purpose.
The police also work with the Civil Aviation Authority who provide the regulations around the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. The authorities are on your side. Currently in the USA, The Tort Law Relating to Drones Act seeks to establish liability with the drone operator for damages associated with trespass by drone, violations of privacy by drone, and negligent operation of drones. Once they’ve agreed on a final draft of the Act, they will recommend it for adoption in each state. This could be a real change in how drones are used and will have ripple effects worldwide.
The next step is to take active steps to protect yourself from drones with what is known as a drone defence system or an anti drone device.
You may be interested to know that we work with the emergency services and large scale events to help them detect drones. Our DDaS system can detect all models of drone using information across brands and models to detect and deploy a rapid resonse to combat the threat.
Whilst this is our commercial offering, as a homeowner you can have the same peace of mind using the MADS Anti-Drone System. The Martek Anti-Drone System – M.A.D.S™ – is a modular system which detects and identifies drones within a 5km range, providing GPS positioning of both drone and pilot together with the drone’s speed and heading.
Configurable and escalating stage alarms in real time allow the threat level to be assessed in good time to decide on appropriate defence actions. Once a real drone threat has been established, you can use the defeat device (anti drone device) at a range based on a 1 to 1 ratio (Pilot to Point of Interest) at 360×180 degrees. An exclusion zone will also be created around your property that will make the drone return to pilot.
A drone defence system is best purchased before a real threat emerges. With an estimated 22 million drones in use by 2020, now is the time to take the steps to protect your most valuable assets and loved ones.
In summary: Protect yourself from drones today
Until more legislative changes come in, drones may rightly be a worry for you. If you want to protect yourself from drones and also ensure the privacy or both your home and your family our smart system can detect and defeat drones and can be set up quickly, for instant peace of mind.
If you want to learn about the simple way to protect yourself from this very real, very modern threat, why not take a look in more detail in our beginners guide to airspace security.