Drone caught buzzing around Vancouver high-rises
Published Tuesday, August 19, 2014 7:47AM EDT
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…drone? The number of Vancouver residents complaining to police about drones buzzing around their homes is on the rise. But experts say they may have little recourse unless the operators can be identified.
Vancouver resident Conner Galway videotaped a drone flying near his downtown high-rise after it flew within a few feet of his 37th-floor balcony Sunday night.
“I didn’t want to be out there when I had no idea what this thing was,” Galway told CTV Vancouver on Monday. “And so we went back inside and thought ‘that was strange’ and we moved on.”
He said the drone remained in the area 45 minutes later. That’s when he began recording and called police.
Vancouver Police say Galway is the tenth person since May to complain about intrusive drones flying too close to homes and high-rises.
Sgt. Randy Fincham says anyone caught taking pictures of residents inside their private dwellings could face charges of voyeurism or criminal harassment.
“If somebody is using one of these aircraft to repeatedly or continuously follow somebody or videotape somebody and somebody becomes concerned about their own personal safety, then definitely that’s another thing that we would look at,” Fincham said.
But civil liberties experts say there are few rules governing the private use of drones. And identifying the owner could prove difficult.
“You can sue for invasion of privacy,” said Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “But again, probably the drone at your window does not have a business card attached to it saying, ‘any complaints please call (this number).’ So we have a logistical problem as well as a regulatory problem.”
While drones were traditionally only used by the military, they have moved into the mainstream in recent years. Film companies shoot footage with them, while realtors use them to get sweeping shots of a property they want to sell.
While commercial users must obtain a permit, recreational users do not.
“Could there be such a day where your drone has to be somehow identified?” wonders Vonn.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Peter Grainger