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

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

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey city councillors complain not enough public input in committees

City has gone ‘exactly the opposite direction,’ Councillor Brenda Locke charges

Music therapist Felicia Wall in the music room at Phoenix Society in Surrey. (submitted photo)
Eclectic album showcases songs recorded by Surrey residents in recovery

Project at Phoenix Society took about six months to complete, with help of music therapist

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
Sources team members (left to right) Carrie Belanger, Abby Gemino, Tatiana Belyaeva, Yasmin de Joya-Pagal cheer during the 2020 Coldest Night of the Year event. This year’s event will be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sources photo)
White Rock’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser goes virtual

Annual walk raises funds for variety of Sources programs and services

A Transit Police officer and another driver were injured on Nov. 4 in a traffic crash while the officer was responding to another officers call for help catching a man who escaped custody. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating Surrey crash that injured transit cop, another driver

Crash happened 11 p.m. Nov. 4, at 128th Street and 93rd Avenue in Cedar Hills

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read