Good fences make good neighbors…
…until you learn to fly a drone over said fence.
There’s a short blurb that came out in the Atlantic last week entitled, “If I Fly a UAV Over My Neighbor’s House, Is It Trespassing?” about a guy who built a drone to find a neighborhood cat that was bullying his kitten. He was successful getting the device to work, but then he faced a tricky dilemma:
After some training runs in which I crashed the little UAV every fifteen seconds, I started to get the hang of where to push on my iPad to get the little AR.Drone to go the way I desired. And then, dodging trees and power lines, I sent the machine flying higher in the sky and scooted towards the fence, popped over it, and — terrified of crashing in territory I didn’t control — sped back across to the safety of my own backyard, and engaged the automatic landing sequence.
Technically, I’d gone over the fence line, and if I’d done so on foot, intentionally, I would have nominally been guilty of trespassing. But if I were flying in a helicopter, a few hundred feet up, I would *not* have been guilty of trespassing. So, what about the air in between?
His resolution? Well, he didn’t really come up with one. He did some research and basically figured out that he was probably violating his neighbor’s right to his/her airspace. But, since it’s difficult to prove damages, what’s the point of a lawsuit on the neighbor’s part?
Future iterations of this dilemma will prove more interesting as privacy clashes with the improvement of hobby-level flying drones. It’s no longer enough just to build a fence; if you want to ensure your privacy, you might be better off staying indoors.