Drones and Home Defense

drones can invade privacyEven as we continue to fight to save our Second Amendment rights, we have a new battlefield popping up and this time it’s our Fourth Amendment right that’s taking the hits. Under the Fourth Amendment, we have an expectation of privacy but ever-changing technology – specifically drones –  is corroding that expectation.

With the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, on the uptake, our right to privacy is blurred. Until the Federal Aviation Administration (which regulates air space over the United States) is able to get a handle on what is acceptable and what isn’t — well, we’re in for a ride.

Good vs. Bad

The truth is: there are always going to be people who use technology for nefarious reasons – almost single-handedly negating the good it brings.

Think folks have not already tried arming drones? Search YouTube for “flamethrower drones” and you will get a surprising number of videos. Check this out. For instance, (we’re not sure where it falls yet): an 18-year-old customized and flew a personal drone that carries a gun and fired shots. He flew it again with a flamethrower on his property. The family is fighting the FAA about the incidents. He posted a video of it on YouTube. That’s probably how the feds got wind of it.

The customized personal drone could be the ultimate unmanned aerial vehicle in home surveillance. Unfortunately, if it falls into the criminal’s hands (and we all know it will), it could end up being a nightmare for law-abiding citizens. Drug dealers are already using drone technology to deliver their goods and bypass law enforcement.

So, what do you do when you’re hanging out with your buddies in the backyard and a drone flies overhead?

What You Need to Know

First, a drone is legally allowed to fly over your property. The question of right to privacy doesn’t enter until a drone hovers. Although the FAA implemented regulations, it will be years before it can catch up with intended personal use and court challenges.

Here’s what we do know: shooting a drone out of the air won’t cut it. If you do that, you need to be willing to spend 20 years in the federal pen. The FAA classifies personal drones as civilian aircraft (even though unmanned) and shooting down or at an aircraft is a federal crime.

We also know the right to privacy, in some cases, comes down to whether airline passengers can see into your backyard or home when traveling over it. If the answer is yes, the courts could side with drone operators when challenged.

How to Protect Your Privacy

The best way to protect yourself is to educate yourself about the publicity laws in your state. These laws oversee the non-consensual use of your likeness. While some states go pretty far with their privacy laws, other don’t go far enough.

If you’ve already found your privacy invaded by the use of a drone from a neighbor or an unknown individual, you may have recourse for pressing a complaint based on trespassing. Check with your local law enforcement to see whether you need to notify the drone operator that they’re trespassing and what to do if you can’t locate them.


Drone technology is fun, cool, useful, and potentially damaging. Because drones are so new, it will be awhile before the legal and regulatory systems can effectively deal with them. In the meantime, it’s best to be aware of what’s happening with drones and what the laws currently say about their use.

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image credit: By CTRMCC BY-SA 4.0

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About Bret Smith

I am a long-time lover of all things outdoors. Whether hunting, shooting, fishing or just hiking and camping, I take every opportunity to enjoy nature and share it with others.

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