When you’re sunbathing at the beach, it’s a given that passersby are going to see you in your bathing suit. But would you be comfortable with a drone hovering at the shoreline filming your every move?
One woman shared her frustrations with The Daily Dot about that very experience at a Virginia beach this week and said the unmanned aerial vehicle in close proximity amounted to sexual harassment.
“Unless it’s there for recording a public event, there is no place for that sort of thing,’’ she told the website. “At the least, it is a sound annoyance. At the worst, it is a personal violation.’’
The woman wrote about the incident on Reddit posting as fortheluzaccount saying her concern was about being recorded without permission.
She recounted that she and her mother were at a private residential spot in Virginia Beach, Va., when she noticed a whirring sound and a square drone hovering close to women in bikinis.
The woman said she ran at the drone threatening to throw a water bottle it. She then found the operators, two men she said, nearby in the dunes. “You are violating every woman on this beach,’’ she claimed to have told them. “Get it out of the sky.’’
The Daily Dot highlighted the issue at hand: Technology is outpacing regulations.
"Small, unmanned aerial vehicles can be purchased by anyone with a few hundred dollars. And cheap, durable GoPro cameras can be easily affixed to most of them. With the growing ubiquity of camera-equipped drones also comes the question of how to ensure that the privacy and personal space of the people being photographed is suitably protected."
Here is a look at what one privately-owned drone could see while flying at a Cape Cod beach, posted by its owner to YouTube.
A similar debate is going on in Florida where the Tampa Bay Fox affiliate reported that beachgoers called the cops on a drone operator last month.
“I called 911 to let them know you’ve got some pervert out here on the beach recording not only people, adults, but children as well,’’ witness Eric Rohner told FOX 13.
Gary Walker, the owner of the 2-pound drone with a mounted camera, defended himself saying he was just getting some flying time in.
“If you look out on this beach any day, there are tourists taking pictures, there are cameras, there’s video all over here,’’ Walker told the news station.
There was nothing police could do. The county commissioners are now considering an ordinance that would restrict the use of drones.
In Massachusetts, US Senator Ed Markey has filed legislation against invasions of privacy by private-sector drones. He told WBUR action is needed before the skies are filled with drones.
"A company could fly a drone over anyone's backyard, collect whatever information they'd like, sell it to whoever they want, and the individual would never know," he told the radio station. "So we are entering a brave new world and just as we have rules of the road, we now need rules of the sky."
State legislation is seeking to limit the scope of government-owned drones.
Some communities are thinking about acting even quicker.
Towns like Amherst and Leverett are considering their own restrictions, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. One aspect of the local bylaws would require drones stay at least 500 feet above private property.
But some on Cape Cod, which will soon be flooded with beachgoers, are inviting drones as a form of economic development.
Which means drones may become as ubiquitous as beach umbrellas.