Amarillo, TX - Drones invading resident's privacy have come up as an issue as more people report seeing them around town.
We all want our privacy, but some worry these unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as "drones" to the public, are taking that away.
"There's a big misconception as to what drones are," Walt Weaver, an attorney at Herrmann & Weaver Law Offices, said. "Drones are military aircraft designed for surveillance or to carry payloads, or bombs. What most people see in their neighborhood are remote control models flying around. The other kind that the people are really worried about are called FPVs, or First Person View."
These unmanned aerial vehicles are operated remotely and often carry audio and video recording equipment. They're popular for recreational and non-recreational purposes. However, there are some criminal and civil liabilities a recreational operator might run into.
"Basically this is a knee jerk law, because people are afraid of what these remote control models might see," Weaver said. "And the law basically says it's a privacy issue. We don't want people using these remote control models for surveillance."
Amarillo police said they only have one possible violation of privacy reported from a "drone" invasion. But that's where things get difficult. How do you prove who owns the aircraft secretly recording on your property, and how do you know it's not government owned?
It's hard to say.
We asked our viewers what they would do in this situation and most of them had a similar response.
They read, "I think amazon will regret using delivery drones, especially in Texas. Down here we call that skeet-shooting with prizes." And, "Nothing a 12 gauge can't handle." Or "If I saw one, let's say over my property, it'd be blown out of the sky."
Turns out, this may not be the best idea.
"If you're going to damage one of these things flying over your property, you better be sure it's not law enforcement, it's not real estate, you better be sure there's a camera on board," Weaver said. "Because merely flying this remote control model is not against the law."
Shooting one of these down could cost you $1,000 or become an obstruction of government property.
In Amarillo, there are no ordinances requiring "drone" owners to fly with a permit, and all public places allow access to do so.
If you are caught capturing an image with intent to conduct surveillance, you could face a Class C misdemeanor.
If you publish these images, you could face a Class B misdemeanor, punishable up to 180 days in jail or a fine of $2,000.