With drone technology readily available, how can people deal with the faceless invasions to their privacy? (Pixabay/File photo)

Residents in B.C. city complain about drones spying on backyards

Residents wonder recourse as drones dash across private properties and conduct home flybys

Picture this: you’re enjoying the peace and sanctity of your home when out of the corner of your eye you notice something that doesn’t belong. Flying above the ground, multiple blades propelling its insect-like body through the air, an unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drone, is trespassing on your property and watching you.

That’s what happened to Tammy Stettler and her family who live in Chilliwack’s Little Mountain area.

“It was upsetting,” said Stettler. “I instantly went out to the deck to let them know, ‘Hey, we see you!’ and it flew off. To this day we don’t know who did it.”

And although it seems as though the technology behind modern drones and quadcopters has really taken off in the past several years—putting them in the hands of anyone who cares to buy one—the first UAVs were actually designed in the late 19th century.

RELATED: New drone regulations further limit places you can fly

However, despite their lengthy history, having camera-equipped drones flying through neighbourhoods and in and out of backyards is a relatively new concept.

“We felt like they were (scoping us out),” said Stettler of her experience with an uninvited drone on her property.

“It was more so the impression of spying, not a recreational feeling. We (feel) for certain they were purposely watching the house … and using (the drone) to see something they wouldn’t normally have permission to see.

And Stettler’s not the only one who’s experienced this sort of invasion. When The Progress asked about local drone activity on social media, people from across the Fraser Valley recounted tales of having their privacy violated by a UAV.

By law, flight regulations for UAVs fall under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada, which means they’re federally regulated and follow the same rules regardless where they’re flown. And one of the first legal requirements is “respecting the Criminal Code, your provincial Trespass Act, and all municipal, provincial and territorial laws that apply.”

WATCH IT: Drone race in Chilliwack kicks off west coast league in new year

“You expect privacy in your own home,” said Stettler, who’s a stay-at-home mom to four children. “And when you see a drone staring at you in the window, suddenly that sense of privacy or security disappears.

“(And) you’re not really prepared when they show up: no gun or sling shot near by, and they’re a lot faster than you and you (typically) don’t have time to shoot it out of the sky.”

However, while the RCMP recognizes the impact that a drone invading one’s privacy can have, they warn against taking matters into one’s own hands.

“Don’t shoot it out of the sky—report it,” warned Cpl. Mike Rail, media liason officer for the Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment (UFVRD).

“The RCMP does not condone vigilantism justice. Every time you take the law into your own hands, you take a risk.”

READ MORE: Drone halts firefighting efforts in B.C. InteriorDrone halts firefighting efforts in B.C. Interior

If you want to shoot something, shoot it with your camera, adds the seasoned officer. “Everyone has a cellphone, so take a picture of (the drone). A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Also, part of the legal responsibilities of an UAV owner is to have his or her name, address, and telephone number clearly visible on the drone. So while that may not be seen in a photo, Rail adds that photos can reveal identifying marks, or act as small pieces that lead investigators towards a bigger story.

However, if you’re on the other end of a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS), continued Rail, it’s up to you to be both respectful and responsible while you’re flying. Flying onto private property, or any place a person wouldn’t be welcome could be considered mischief and may lead to criminal charges says Rail.

For more information about how to appropriately fly a drone, please visit the Government of Canada’s drone safety webpage at TC.gc.ca/en/services/aviation/drone-safety/flying-drone-safely-legally.html.


@SarahGawdin
Sarah.Gawdin@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Coast Mountain College sets up student emergency fund

It’ll provide grocery store gift cards for students affected by COVID-19 crisis

Red Chris, Tahltan collaborate on COVID-19 safety

Mine continues to operate with several new measures aimed at stopping spread of virus

School district #54 works on school plan

School district officials and teachers are this week communicating plans to resume… Continue reading

UPDATE: Man drowns crossing Skeena River

59-year old Prince Rupert victim pronounced dead at Mills Memorial

Better COVID-19 testing results needed in the north

Former senior Northern Health official also wants work camps shut down

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

B.C. adding $300 to monthly income and disability assistance payments

‘Crisis supplement’ for COVID-19 for April, May and June

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

COVID-19 has been impacting Canadian economy since January

But full effects of pandemic won’t be known for months

Doctors trained abroad want to join front lines of COVID-19 fight in Canada

B.C. is looking to allow internationally trained doctors to work under the supervision of attending physicians

Fake test kits and other COVID online scams play on public anxiety: fraud centre

Vancouver has seen a spike in commercial property crimes, with offices and stores empty because of COVID-19

Most Read