LAPD on limiting drone overflights of police station.

August 3, 2014 |

Ad hocracy is the watch word when it comes to regulation of drones.  The LA Time story LAPD seeks to limit civilian drone flights over police stations bears this out.  An operator guides a drone over a police station, takes videos of police cars coming and going, posts what must be interminably boring footage on you tube.  Not surprisingly the police get annoyed. The problem is that the proposed solution, as in stop this happening to us, is narrow, short sighted and generally bad public policy.

It provides:

Los Angeles police on Friday said they have asked the city attorney’s office and county prosecutors to explore whether they can legally prohibit civilians from flying drones with cameras over department-owned parking lots.

The inquiry was sparked after a South Bay man who routinely films police activity and posts the footage on his website flew his drone over the parking lot of the LAPD’s Hollywood station this week and filmed squad cars going in and out.

He then posted the video on YouTube.

“What concerns us is that they are filming over private property and it’s gated – you’re looking at the layout of the police station, how we operate, personnel license plates,” said police Lt. Michael Ling. “It’s kind of like if it was your house, if they’re flying over your backyard you’d start asking questions about it.”

Though a sergeant who confronted the pilot and three other people said he believed filming inside the parking lot was trespassing, it may not be that clear cut. Although the Federal Aviation Administration has regulations about how private businesses and law enforcement can use drones, there are few rules covering the casual hobbyist.

A ruling by a federal oversight committee in March further complicated regulation. The National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Administrative Law Judges found in favor of a pilot who was issued a $10,000 citation for flying a drone over the University of Virginia as part of a photography project. The FAA is appealing the ruling.

Police said there are some activities they consider illegal, including drones interfering with aviation activities. Using the planes to spy on neighbors would also raise red flags.

“They bring up the expectation of privacy, I’m not buying it,” the drone’s 42-year-old pilot, Daniel Saulmon, said of the LAPD’s argument. “Suddenly they’re talking about how I’m trespassing on a public sidewalk. They do not have an expectation of privacy…if you want privacy, build a roof.”

From police stations to prisons, perhaps a natural transition for some.  The ABC reports in  Drone Carrying Drugs And Phones Crashes Outside South Carolina Prison  that a drone being used to smuggle contraband into a South Carolina prison went awry.  Not the first time and probably won’t be the last.

One Response to “LAPD on limiting drone overflights of police station.”

  1. LAPD on limiting drone overflights of police station. | Australian Law Blogs

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