Letter to the editor: Drones rip away privacy even inside your own home

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      On Sunday (June 5) night, with the weather balmy and the sun just about to set, I walked out on my balcony, which fortunately looks out over the New West promenade and the Fraser River. As I stood at the railing listening to the waves lap at the shore of a newly formed sandspit, I heard a distinct, high white noise. This continuous high pitch buzzing was something I have heard before and I soon recognized it as the sound of a drone.

      As I scanned the dusk sky, I eventually pinpointed the sound and noticed a floating red light hovering above the boardwalk. I was startled to see a drone. The sizeable quadcopter with cam was clearly being manoeuvred expertly as it dove and wove in between the trees, out over the water, back again, and over a neighbour’s balcony.

      This device was easily manipulated to go anywhere and fast. The people walking on the boardwalk were apparently oblivious that they were being followed and/or watched.

      I watched as it then made its way in front of our building and slowly progressed west along the building as if scoping out the balconies. What was really disturbing was the realization that it was "looking" at things and then at me!

      When the drone ended up in front of my balcony, it seemed as though it suddenly realized I was standing there looking at it. When it noticed me, it almost appeared startled as it stopped right in front me, backed away quickly, and then took off east up the boardwalk and out of sight.

      Was this a drone that was being operated by some people as they walked? Was it someone who was just playing and flying it around for pleasure? Or was it someone who is scoping out balconies to plunder or people alone on the boardwalk to accost?

      Either way, the sight of a drone hovering outside one's balcony is disturbing in many ways.

      Has our city or council even thought of such predicament, let alone made any policies toward it?

      The council that loves to say what a "smart and "connected" city New West is,  doesn’t appear to have a game plan for the operation of drones within city limits and these devices' relationship to the Privacy Act.

      Where do the police stand on this matter? Is the operator a peeping tom or a stalker, thus making this behaviour criminal? Whether the reason is nefarious or not, should someone be allowed to watch you in your home or as you walk just because they own flying device with a camera attached?  When does a toy become something more sinister?

      With the advent of the intelligent quadcopter that can think on its own, drones are having a measurable impact on society as we know it. It is time perhaps to have understandings in place now to address potential issues in the future.  While this experience happened in New West, it would seem appropriate that such discussions on drone operations be given a broader platform within all municipalities.

      Paul R. Thompson/New Westminster