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A recent drone with camera sighting over a Downing Street home by its residents triggered neighbors to question the legality of drone use in urban environments, especially when they hover over our backyards. The issue was presented to State Representative Juan Candelaria, D.-95, who provided an extremely informative reply and analysis. Rep. Candelaria graciously agreed to share the following with CSNA:
Determining whether a specific drone use is legal can be complicated by a lot of particulars regarding the use. Local law enforcement are a good resource for answering these questions, and can be called to investigate any concerning drone uses.
Broadly, most authority for regulating drone use is with the federal government, through the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). Through the FAA, there are some use requirements and guidelines, which may help an observer, local law enforcement, or an FAA investigator determine whether a drone is being used properly or improperly. The main source for information I use is http://www.faa.gov/uas/. I have found the FAQ section on the FAA page to be particularly helpful.
There are guidelines that the FAA has published for what acceptable recreational drone use is, including:
1. Fly at or below 400 feet
2. Keep your UAS within sight
3. Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
4. Never fly over groups of people
5. Never fly over stadiums or sports events
6. Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
7. Never fly under the influence
8. Be aware of airspace requirements
Given the information in the original question, a couple of these guidelines may apply, depending on the particular circumstances. Specifically #4, flying over groups of people, and #3, flying near airports. In this case, 5 miles is the FAA standard for being near an airport, and most of New Haven is within 5 miles of Tweed.
There are also certain aspects of drone use that may be unknown to an observer, but that an investigator can look into to determine whether an activity was proper or not. Besides determining whether a drone owner gave proper notice to a nearby airport, these include determining if the drone is properly registered with the FAA, the purpose for which the drone was used, and whether any permits or exemptions from the FAA were necessary and present.
It is true that at this time, Connecticut does not have any state laws that apply specifically and only to drones. However, there may be state and local laws that, while not specific to drones, may apply to certain drone uses. That includes laws or ordinances that apply to creating a nuisance, damaging property, or endangering a person’s safety.
Drones are treated the same by the FAA whether or not they have cameras attached to them. However, if voyeurism via a camera on a drone is a concern, it can be investigated in the same manner as other cases of voyeurism.
Ultimately, if there is concern about a drone use or activity, it may be best to call local law enforcement.
I hope this information is helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any further questions you may have.
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