Fearmongering Piece on 'Peeping' Drones Shows Us Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

A drone could be flying right outside your window, staring at you after you’ve come out of the shower, or watching you sleep. At least that’s what TODAY show correspondent Jeff Rosen’s latest piece on spying drones would have you believe.

In the heady days before the Federal Aviation Administration really got a handle on personal use drones, there was little regulation and not too many stories of bad actors causing trouble for the law abiding rest-of-us. And while there’s still a lot of people in the law-abiding category, it’s the few stories of people doing idiotic things with drones that make the news and make it harder for people to operate even the smallest of drones. Even something as small as a DJI Spark needs to be registered with the FAA. The registration requirement was reinstated in December 2017.

Now there’s probably more reason the public will look at drones with a suspicious eye. In the TODAY piece, Rosen takes a look at what a DJI Phantom can actually see from outside your window. He points out that with many windows, you won’t be able to even see the drone outside your window. Sometimes, you might not even be able to hear it (though that’s a little hard to believe, given how loud a phantom is). You can see that he’s not wrong. If you’re not a fan of blinds, this could be a real problem.

The sad part of all of this is that lawful, non-peeping-tom drone users will probably bear the brunt of suspicion from the public after watching this piece. There may even be a crazy person or two that shoots an unassuming drone out of the sky.

So here’s a public service announcement for anyone that’s thinking about using their drone to spy on their neighbors: Don’t. You’ll just make it worse for everyone else.

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Mark Van Noy's picture

The FAA has not come close to catching up to drone use. They currently make no distinction between R/C planes and helicopters that are flown at dedicated R/C flying fields and camera carrying multi-rotor drones. For decades the AMA has regulated R/C with rules about where aircraft can fly relative to the flight line and mandating that all flying is done within line of sight. The FAA made a knee jerk reaction because of camera drones and created blanket rules that was an overreach anyway. Section 336 specifically prohibits the FAA from regulating R/C aircraft. Of course, no regulations will prevent some people from doing foolish and illegal things. If you search YouTube you can find videos of drone operators baiting police officers by, legally, flying drones in front of police stations.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

In my country at least it is still rare to see a drone. I think I have only seen half a dozen drones flying in all these years. In most parts of my province in the Netherlands, there is a flight restriction so nobody is allowed to fly drones.

Lars Daniel Terkelsen's picture

Fearmongering at its absolute worst. :-(

Deleted Account's picture

It's regrettable but "Fearmongering at its absolute worst"? Not even close! :-/

Alexander Petrenko's picture

There is a new invention protecting me at my most vulnerable moments. It’s called curtains.

Deleted Account's picture

Are those available in the US? ;-)

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Not yet, but you can back them them on Kickstarter and they are promised to ship in February 2019.

Deleted Account's picture

Do you have a link?

Timothy Linn's picture

I don't think arguing that people have the option to keep their curtains closed all day is a compelling argument. Even arguing that people no longer have the right of privacy in their own house and should thus close their curtains before showering or changing clothes seems unreasonable.

Deleted Account's picture

I think the larger issue is not addressable. I hate gas powered leaf blowers. They're annoying as hell and even though the folks in my neighborhood use them legally and responsibly, they still annoy the hell out of me. There's nothing they can do to alleviate that and nothing I can, or should, do to stop them. The necessary result is, I'm not going to like those neighbors and, despite my efforts to conceal it, will treat them accordingly. I feel exactly the same way about drones and their operators.

So, continue to use them and I'll continue to dislike you but will attempt to hide it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Rick Pappas's picture

You're accusing this NBC piece of "fearmongering"? That's just not fair. You then go on to indicate that the "...Federal Aviation Administration really got a handle on personal use drones...". That's just not true (unenforceable laws only create lawlessness). You then go on to say: "You can see that he’s not wrong." when the NBC report talks about not being able to hear or see a drone that is invading our privacy.

So in short, while assailing NBC, you agree that drones can create intrusions of privacy and then conclude with a plea to your fellow drone users not to spy.

Tell me again...how is it that NBC is "fearmongering"? Their piece looked like good information to me.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

A dude across the street with a telephoto can do way more spying than a drone and no one will ever know. So get priorities right. If you’re afraid that someone is gonna see your wrinkly white ass then use blinds.

Timothy Linn's picture

Get your priorities right? I think you're the one that has your priorities messed up if you think that your right to personal pleasure when flying a drone somehow trumps another person's right to privacy. And I'm not sure the fact that a Peeping Tom could invade your privacy with a telephoto lens is a good argument for allowing drones to potentially do the same. To be clear, I'm not anti-drone. I just think the argument that everyone else should just learn to live with it is self-centered and unrealistic.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Peeping Tom, who always existed, just got one more tool. And Tom is not going to leave. It’s in his nature, you can’t stop him by issuing new laws, he doesn’t care about them. You can accept it and adapt.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Allow me to disagree. I think we have no other choice as to learn to live with this new technology. It’s not like it’s gonna go away if some people are against that.
And I do find it a good argument; how come Peeping Tom is not considered nearly as invasive as a drone operator?
Most people’s homes/apartments’ windows face other windows so there is always a chance someone can grab a binoculars and see you unless you use blinds. Right?
Hope it doesn’t sound like I’m all for using drones for spying. ))

Timothy Linn's picture

As I think about this, I am completely sympathetic to drone owners operating their units on their own property. I am assuming no one is being nefarious. The moment that drone crosses the property line everything changes. Then neighbors should have the right to knock those suckers out of the sky.