Recently, we had an inquiry from a client who had an unfortunate run-in with a drone. We thought, with the increased popularity of drones, other people might be interested in our answer.
Yesterday I was followed and harassed while riding my bike by a drone that was flying about 10-15 ft directly overhead. This was honestly really terrifying and I fell off my bike because I was so startled and panicked when I took off my headphones and heard the buzzing. Is this legal for a person to do this? Could it have been law enforcement, if so would they be required to identify themselves? Should I have called 911? Would it be legal for me to fire from a slingshot if I were harassed?
First of all, I want to say loud and clear that it is NOT OK for you to throw anything at a drone, even if it was harassing you.
Drone use is regulated by Michigan State Law (as opposed to local laws or ordinances) and anyone who “knowingly and intentionally” operates a drone to “subject an individual to harassment,” is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Harassment is defined as conduct directed toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes emotional distress.
Anyone who flies a drone recreationally is required to register with the FAA and obtain a Certificate of Registration. Furthermore, a drone pilot is required to keep the drone within their visual line of sight.
The same rules that apply to civilian drone operators also apply to the police. AND the same rules that apply to police searches without drones apply to searches with drones.
What does all this mean? It means that you have every right to call the police if you are being harassed by a drone. If this ever happens again, look around. If the pilot can see his drone – as is required – then you will most likely be able to see the pilot. If you have your cell phone, take a photograph of the drone and the pilot. That way you have some evidence for the police when you file your report. If the drone is a police drone, I would call the police and the local ACLU office to report that violation of your privacy. From what I understand it is an issue the ACLU may be tracking.
There may be a potential civil law suit arising out of harassment and any injury that results from the harassment. But thankfully, it sounds like you were not hurt.
If you have any other questions or if this harassment continues and you would like to file a civil lawsuit in addition to a police report, call me. Liz (248) 520-2054