Drone follows woman then crashes into her car

 In opinion, Technology

Emily was at a bar in Tampa, Florida, when a drone began hovering around her as she exited it. The drone followed her to the car then crashed itself into the roof of the vehicle.

“You can hurt somebody with this. By chasing them, just like it did with Emily. It chased her there to here. She got in her car and it fell on her car….It’s an invasion of people’s privacy…[Drones] can go places and see what other people are doing, record them, taking  video tapes. People’s lives are not a game.” Dan Mouneimne, Emily’s stepfather


File photo- a drone crashed into the roof of a car after following a woman outside a local bar – photo courtesy of WFLA

Nothing police can do

But when Mouneimne called the police, they told him there was little they could do about it- because there are no specific laws governing the use of drones.

According to WFLA Tampa, criminal or civil penalties could apply if the person operating the drone was proven to intentionally crash the unmanned aircraft into her car. Or the drone causing damage to the car would be subject to civil action. But all in all, drone operators are not subject to any specific laws at this time.

“The laws are not up to date. And, since drones are relatively new, right now there are no laws that cover what a drone can do and can they video tape from afar? So that’s right, I think the legislature needs to look at it and do something about it.” Bryant Camareno, legal expert, criminal defense attorney in Tampa to WFLA

Emily’s stepfather has not heard from police about who was operating the drone.

The facts

There are some rules governing the operation of drones in the United States. An unmanned aerial aircraft must obtain a permit from the FAA if it is gathering news, for example. A drone operated by a private person that happens to gather news does not require a permit. A drone becoming the news as in this case… that’s not covered.

If the drone is flown into regulated airspace near the White House (as we previously reported) the operator can be subject to fines or other administrative action.  Commercial drone use is still on the regulatory headache list, with exemptions for  some companies leaving a confusing mire in the permit process. Proposals for new regulations have yet to be fully implemented.

If Miss Emily was followed by a commercial drone, the possibility exists of a fine for the company that owns it. But since they are regulations and not laws, the probability of enforcement of those regulations is low. In the meantime, if you see a drone following you, you might want to duck.

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