In a case that is likely to be repeated with greater regularity in the coming years, a man is accused of criminal damage to property in swatting a drone out of the air in California. Many people view the increasing use of drones with cameras to be a nuisance and have taken actions against the drones or their operators, as we previously discussed. In this case, however, the neighbor of Michael Luzansky, owner of Lucky7Drones, has his neighbor on videotape walking across the street to swat the drone out of the air with his teeshirt. It seems like a rather straight-forward case of criminal damage but it raises the issue of what reasonable limitation should be put on drone operators who are irritating people on beaches and parks with this new technology.
There is no question that this is a technology that has justifiably upset many people who do not want drones with cameras hovering over them with cameras in public spaces. There are many people who have acted like complete morons including the case discussed earlier of a drone operator who crashed a drone into a protected hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. There is also a rising concern over midair collisions with drones like the recent incident involving a passenger plane.
However, as with the woman who attacked a drone operator, the neighbor in Huntington Beach clearly violated the law in swatting down the drone. The drone was a few feet off the road and not above the neighbor’s property. The man warned him not to fly the drone over his property but then walked over into a public area and knocked the drone out of the air. The result was damage to the drone. Luzansky posted the videotape to “Stop the drone violence. We want to educate people.”
He is seeking $1,400 and an apology.
There should be reasonable limitations placed on this technology. Unfortunately, drone operators want to use parks for their recreation. Yet, these drones not only feel like an invasion of privacy due to their cameras but people fear having drones hovering over or near them. The result is that they can undermine the enjoyment of parks for others. In national parks, drones destroy the sense of natural conditions and remoteness as some drone jockey maneuvers the machine over pristine or once remote areas. Even though these are public areas, you can have a privacy interest in close surveillance. The new technology raises some interesting issues of intrusion upon seclusion and a comparison to Nader v. General Motors Corp., where Ralph Nader was able to show that GM hired detectives to follow him closely. One such instance involved looking over his shoulder at banks to read his bank slips, which was found to be an intrusion upon seclusion even though it was a public place.
The question is whether a relatively small number of drone enthusiasts should be allowed to ruin such experiences for others. What is interesting is that, unlike model planes that operate in special areas, drone operators appear to prefer populated areas. While most enjoy the technology, there is also a voyeuristic interest in some using this camera to observe areas at the twist or tug of a toggle switch. Unless we find some reasonable regulations, these type of confrontations will increase and could easily become more violent.