Flying Drones in Residential Areas, Where is Our Privacy?

Flying Drones in Residential Areas Invading Privacy of Individuals

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Are we safe in our own homes? Local Chinese news media reported on a flying drone trespassing a private property estate multiple times. The property owner said that on 11th Jun 2019, a drone trespassed her bungalow located along Telok Blangah Road late at night, and hovered 2 meters above her helper’s bedroom, toilet, and living room. The owner mentioned that this was not the first time that the drone had intruded into her home. The same drone had trespassed her home previously on two occasions in April and once in May.

In May this year, another similar incident happened to former piano teacher Amelia Yeo, when she saw a drone fly pass her window as she was showering in her Belysa condominium unit located on the 17th floor. Ms Yeo, 40, mentioned that she saw the drone fly past her window several times, about 50 to 100 metres away at a “relatively slow speed”.

On 24th Jun 2019, a combination of unauthorized drone activities and bad weather delayed some 15 flight departures and three arrivals, while another seven flights were diverted at Changi Airport. The worst was on 18th and 19th Jun, when unauthorized drones delayed 37 flights and affected two airport runways. The SAF and police was eventually called in to provide assistance with drone disruptions and to arrest errant drone operators.

The authority regulating the use of recreational drones is the Civil Aviation Authority Singapore (CAAS). Currently, the drone flying regulation stipulates that:

  1. Drones cannot be flown over people or crowds.

  2. Drone pilots must maintain a visual line of sight with their drone at all times.

  3. Drones flying over 200 feet (or 12 HDB floors) require a permit.

While there are heavy penalties (a $20,000 fine and/or 12 months jail) for flying a drone within 5km of airports or military bases, there has yet to be any regulations pertaining to the trespass of homes/private properties and the illegal filming of residents.

As flying drones become increasingly affordable, this problem is expected to worsen. Should new laws be put in place to prevent errant operators from flying their drones around residential areas and spying on unsuspecting individuals? Someone definitely has to stop them from snooping on others. Otherwise, what is a home without some guarantee of privacy?

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