What to do about drones?

A DRONE hovering over houses on Bridges Road in Melville last week has local residents wondering about safety and how to protect their privacy.

A local told the Herald the drone spent more than an hour zipping up and down the street, but he couldn’t see its operator. He was worried it might have been burglars scouting for valuables in people’s backyards, or a creep using the drone’s powerful camera to pry into people’s homes.

Anyone suffering a drone buzzing overhead has almost no legal recourse, with rules hazy and enforcement near impossible.

It’s a game of pass the buck when it comes to figuring out who can help.

Industry body Australian Certified UAV Operators Inc says anyone worried about drones in regards to, “breaches of privacy… or other suspicious activity.. should notify the local police immediately”.

But police media officer Sarah Dyer says, “drones are an issue for the civil aviation safety authority (CASA)”.

CASA didn’t call us back but it generally covers aviation safety (eg, drones too close to airports) rather than citizens’ privacy. It is reviewing its regulations on drone use, but has categorically ruled out including privacy in the rewrite.

Governments overseas are employing drastic measures to take down rogue drones.

Japanese police equip theirs with large nets while Dutch police are training eagles to swoop and destroy.

Meanwhile, in the US a research institute is working on a weapon that disrupts radio waves, interrupting pilot control and downing drones from as far as 400m. An ammunition company has a less elegant but equally effective solution: 12-gauge, #2 steel ferromagnetic shotgun shells sold in boxes of 25 to bring down drones “spying on unsuspecting neighbours”. Yeehaw.

by DAVID BELL and STEVE GRANT

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