This is a true story. One night, a local woman was sitting at her computer when she noticed a strange light outside her kitchen window. No, it wasn’t a UFO — at least, not the kind you’re thinking of. It was a drone, also called an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV, and it was hovering just a few feet from her window, with a clear view into the home.
“When I looked up and saw it, I immediately got up to remove myself from their view and called for my husband,” she says. “By the time we looked out the window again, it was gone.”
The woman asked not be identified, but said it was OK to share that she lives in the Meridian Road area near Aurora. Of course, she called the sheriff’s office about what seemed to be an obvious case of trespassing. Unfortunately, she was told, it’s not that simple.
“Although the officer expressed frustration, outrage and understanding of my fear and anger, they indicated to me that there was nothing that could be done,” she says. “Drones are legal, and, in fact, if you see one flying around your property, it is illegal to shoot it down. People have faced lawsuits by drone owners and have been fined significantly.”
This is true, though one lawsuit was dismissed in 2017 against a Kentucky man, who shot down a drone he believed was spying on his sunbathing teenage daughter. Some would-be “drone slayers” have also faced criminal penalties for reckless endangerment or firing guns in city limits.
Canby Police Detective Sergeant Mike Smith said there is one state law in Oregon that would prohibit a drone pilot from knowingly harassing another person on their private property. One small problem: You have to know who the pilot is to indict them.
Sgt. Smith says that, fortunately, an incident like what we just described has not yet been reported in Canby. But it is something that concerns aviation and law enforcement officials from the federal government all the way down to the local level.
The problem is that the technology has outpaced the law and regulations. Commercial drones just became available in the United States a few years ago. Now, they can fly for miles, come equipped with high-definition cameras, and some cheap models can be bought online for less than 100 bucks.
Federal and state lawmakers are working on solutions, but it will take some time. For now, it’s a gray area.
If you notice a drone trespassing on your property or behaving suspiciously, call the Canby Police Department’s non-emergency dispatch number at 503-655-8211. Until then, keep your eye on the sky.