4 Ways to Beat Back the Drones

Some legal, some not.

The future is here, and it can be downright creepy sometimes. The most recent reminder came just last week, courtesy of two guys and a drone. Here’s a quick recap, in case you missed it: At around 7:45 a.m. Sunday, June 22, a woman called her building concierge complaining of a drone hovering outside her 26th floor apartment as she dressed. Naturally, the flying camera freaked her out.

While the drone in this particular incident turned out to be the work of a Portland company taking harmless real-estate photos for a local developer, and not the work of a nefarious peeper, that hasn’t stopped people from talking about it. A lot. As it turns out, folks get really antsy at the thought of perverts with drones taking photos of them. They want a way to protect themselves. As a public service, we called the Seattle Police Department to get some tips on drone self-defense. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

A BB gun.Tempting though it may be to bring out the ol’ Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle, it’s probably not a good idea. First of all, hitting a drone with a BB gun is much harder than it looks. Secondly, according to Seattle Police spokesperson Sean Whitcomb, you’d be putting others at risk and opening yourself to possible criminal charges. “We would recommend against the use of any firearm—pellet or otherwise—in the city limits,” explains Whitcomb. “The overriding principle should be personal safety and safety of others.”

Water balloons. On the Danger Scale, throwing water balloons at a drone seems like a much better idea—but risks are still involved. Gravity comes into play, Whitcomb explains, as do property rights. “It’s just being aware of who’s below,” Whitcomb says of throwing water balloons or causing a disabled drone to fall from the sky. Whitcomb also reminds us that if a drone isn’t being employed for criminal ends, damaging one could result in misdemeanor charges against its attacker. “Drones are basically going to be private property,” says Whitcomb. “We always have to be respectful of what belongs to others. . . . Our forefathers flew kites. People in the 21st century might fly drones.”

A citizens arrest. All that said, if you do believe a drone is being used for illegal purposes like voyeurism, Whitcomb says seizing the flying machine is perfectly within your rights. “Let’s say you’re sunbathing in your yard, you see a drone, and you think it’s being used for criminal activity,” Whitcomb says. “You can smack it with a tennis racket, then hold it for police.” Or if you live in a high-rise, Whitcomb says simply, “Just close your blinds and call police.”

A full-frontal attack. In case you’re wondering, it’s totally legal to be naked in your apartment 100 percent of the time. While many seem to be frightened by the idea of a drone snapping nude photos of them, it’s also true that a drone might think twice about peering into apartment 2B if it gets more of a look-see than it bargained for. “Nudity in your own space is completely legitimate,” Whitcomb reminds us. Good to know.


Art credits: "Balloon" by George Patterson, "WC Toilets" by Patrick Trouvé from The Noun Project collection.

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