Because a majority of my work is in real estate, I will use real estate work as the example.
When a client hires me to film or photograph a property from the air, they want the video or image to show the property in the context of its surroundings. They don't hire me to take one photo, looking straight down over the property. They want lots of photos, taken from different heights and angles, that show the different features of the house, the property, and the property's surroundings. In order to get these shots, I need to be able to fly my drone over adjacent properties for periods of time, often longer than 60 seconds. Sometimes I need to get multiple takes of a video, requiring me to fly the same "route" more than once. Sometimes I need to hover for awhile to capture a High Dynamic Range (HDR) shot. I do this because I want my product to be of the highest quality, effective towards its purpose (selling the property or piquing interest), and to make my client happy. I DO NOT do this to "spy" on the neighbor!
What I do is completely harmless, and it is necessary in order to be successful at my job. Anything that I can see from up there is just as readily available to from an airplane that I could rent or to the general public via Google Maps. Being the fairly shy people-pleaser that I am, I will do everything in my power to avoid disturbing or upsetting neighbors or bystanders. In fact, out of the 120+ jobs I have completed over the past 2 years, I there have been only TWO instances where a neighbor was concerned for privacy. That is less than 2% of all jobs completed since I founded Southern Oregon Drone - statistically insignificant to say the least! Yet this bill claims that this is an “emergency,” to which I argue that the REAL emergency here is the fact that people are not doing their own research and actually learning real facts - they simply take whatever money-making headlines the media spews out as facts, and then bills like this get created based off of fear and a lack of understanding. If this describes you, I will personally promise you that no one cares what you're growing, doing, or playing with in your back yard - least of all someone who was hired to film the property next door. Drone paranoia is a big moneymaker for the media, and does quite a bit of damage to legitimate drone operators.
Should this bill pass, I could face a fine of up to $1,000 if I remain over adjacent private property for more than 60 seconds. Ah, but here is where the loopholes come in. Does this law imply a continuous 60 seconds, or cumulative 60 seconds? If it’s the latter, over what period of time? An hour? A day? A week? Go ahead, read the bill again. There are no answers in there!
And what if someone DID have malevolent intentions? The FAA allows us to fly up to 400 feet above the ground, and I can tell you right now that there are some great zoom lenses out there that could be placed on a drone’s camera so that any pervert or peeping tom could zoom in from the safety of public or their own property’s airspace and take a look at whatever subject they were interested in - and it would be 100% legal. I don’t mean to scare anyone; I just want people to be aware that this bill really isn’t stopping anyone from invading privacy, but it is hindering responsible operators from doing their job.
My final point is that over the past couple years, the Federal Aviation Administration has sought out the opinions and recommendations of the best and brightest in the drone industry in order to craft a set of regulations that pertain to drones. In 2016, they signed these regulations into law under 14 CFR Part 107. Guess what kind of law didn’t make the cut? THIS KIND. As someone who operates under these rules routinely (and as an airplane pilot who has seen some of the nonsense the FAA is capable of doing), I can say that the FAA did a pretty good job this time at minimizing the risk to the general public while maximizing the ability of the operator to do what they do best. To that end, there is absolutely no federal aviation regulation that prohibits or limits the flying of an unmanned aerial system (drone) over private property, and that’s for good reason. (Feel free to check out Part 107 to see for yourself, it’s a fascinating read…/s). These rules only apply to commercial drone operators (i.e. those of us who are paid or compensated to fly a drone), and we are required to obtain a Remote Pilot’s license from the FAA. In other words, if we’re responsible enough to follow the FAA’s list of rules and jump through their hoops to obtain the required license, we’re probably not in the business of spying on some old lady sunbathing in her backyard. Therefore, this bill is completely unnecessary.
I should probably note that I don’t condone anyone using a drone (or any other tool for that matter) to spy or piss off neighbors. People who do this intentionally are the few bad apples that ruin it for everyone else. Still, I can understand why people would be concerned about their privacy. In fact, I actually *might* support a similar bill if it applied to those who do NOT posses a Remote Pilot certificate, or if responsible operators could obtain a waiver that exempts us from this rule. I am not sure what that would look like or how one could prove themselves, but I would certainly be more open to a bill containing that kind of regulation over half-baked bill 3049!
This bill is going to be reviewed on April 27th, so I would humbly ask that you send a quick email to the committee with your input! Be sure to call your representatives as well. If passed, this bill could cripple a large number of growing drone service companies in Oregon, including Southern Oregon Drone. If you have no desire to help us small guys, that's okay - let me put it in terms you will understand:
If this bill is passed, say goodbye to Pizza Delivery Drones! Amazon Prime Drone Delivery probably won't make it either!
Thank you for taking the time to learn about this harmful bill! Feel free to shoot me any questions or comments you might have in the comments section below.
Founder, Southern Oregon Drone