Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, says he’ll pre-file a bill in the state Senate in a few weeks to ban low-level drone flights over people’s homes or private property in South Carolina. “What I’ve seen over the last couple of years is a real increase in individuals buying drones just for fun, but all you have to do is have a camera on one and fly it over somebody’s house or their backyard to invade their privacy. So this bill would keep that from happening,” he says.
The problem got a lot of attention over the summer, when William Meredith saw a drone hovering over his backyard in Hillview, Kentucky. His daughters were in the yard, so he got his shotgun and blasted the drone out of the air. “It’s an invasion of privacy,” he said. “We were in our own yard. Had he been flying around and never stopped over my house, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
He was arrested and charged with firing a gun within city limits and wanton endangerment, but a judge recently threw out the charges.
Sen. Sheheen says, “We’re not really trying to put people in jail because they inadvertently fly their drone over somebody’s house, but you do need to have rules and regulations that would make sure that people’s privacy, which is really under assault in today’s world, is protected.”
Eddie Adams, who flies a drone to shoot video and photos for real estate companies, says his clients always notify neighbors that a drone will be flying nearby. He says he wouldn’t have a problem with the bill. “I know as a homeowner myself, I don’t necessarily want anybody just flying over my house with a camera,” he says.
The Federal Aviation Administration requires commercial drone operators to get a special exemption from them, requiring them to use only licensed pilots at the controls. But that’s not required for people flying drones for fun. They’re just supposed to keep the drones in their line of sight, fly below 400 feet, keep them away from people and planes, and the drones must weigh 55 pounds or less.