Monday, August 24, 2015

Droning On, Part (N+1)

Allegra Kirkland at TPM Livewire:
Man On Beach Takes Down Drone
By Throwing T-Shirt At It, Ends Up In Jail
A Southern California man’s relaxing day at the beach came to an unpleasant conclusion this week. After taking down a drone that was hovering over his group of friends by throwing his T-shirt at it, Augustine Lehecka found himself behind bars at the Vista County jail, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Lehecka told the newspaper he “felt threatened” by the low-flying drone, which had four whirling blades and was equipped with a mounted camera.
"Threatened"? NFK! Threatened by the blades and by the spy camera!
(NOT the drone in the story - SB)
(NOT the beach party in the story - SB)

Out of concern for his friends' privacy, he said he tossed his shirt toward the drone, knocking it into the sand. Ten minutes later, he was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on suspicion of felony vandalism and taken to jail.


Lehecka was released eight hours later after posting a $10,000 bail, according to the newspaper.

On Tuesday, however, the district attorney's office declined to press charges against Lehecka.

The aircraft belonged to a pilot who works for a drone company, who said he was not invading the group’s privacy and suffered $750 in damage from the drone’s crash landing.

Several of our nation's founders mentioned that there was an inherent danger in amending the Constitution with a specific Bill of Rights: namely, that the list would become a formula for limiting our rights, which by the founders' intent were too numerous to be listed with any completeness.

And here we have exactly that: there is no explicitly listed right of privacy in the Constitution (though SCOTUS Justices have found aspects of such a right in various passages); therefore, in the opinion of jerk-off small-town sheriffs, there is no right to privacy.

I realize that I argue both sides of this issue in various contexts; e.g., photographers need a well-defined right to take pics of people and objects in public, i.e., in places where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. But no right (not even speech) is completely unlimited, and if someone flew a drone with a clearly visible camera mounted on it over my beach party for more than, say, half a minute, I would be inclined to start tossing something at the drone, sand at the very least. If the drone pilot wants to avoid such physical commentary on his (I can't imagine "her") spying on a social event, he can hover a couple hundred feet up, where the drone is less vulnerable to anyone with a good arm, and... admittedly... the view probably isn't as good.

Privacy is scarce in these parlous times. If this ruling had gone the sheriffs' way instead of the beach party's, we might as well pitch privacy in the trash can designated for rights our overlords have already decided we don't get to have. I can only hope they are haunted by ghosts of Americans in history who have at least given actual thought to the matter of what privacy has to be available in a free society.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Drones are relatively new. Many of the technologies have been around for a long time, but the particular combination has not. How well proven is it? Who can say! The 21st-century "tradition" says to corp's, "market a product as soon as you can sell it to someone; don't wait for years of testing to prove it safe and/or effective." And that's what drone manufacturers have done, by and large. People want 'em, people are willing to pay big $ for 'em... so people get 'em, and devil take the hindmost, not to mention the people standing right underneath 'em.

In countries where America's drones were first used for military purposes, no one in the local villages had any choice but to stand underneath the drones and, angrily or resignedly, die when the drones struck. The same is not true of Americans on their own soil. We are a tech-oriented people; we have our own anti-dronecraft weapons: we have open-carry laws and... and we even have T-shirts. Megalomaniacs challenging ordinary citizens by flying personal drones into their midst: beware!


  1. I think drone usage should be licensed and well regulated. Think drone, California in October and a pyromaniac There is no 2nd amendment right to open fly drones. Our armed forces use drones to project force almost anywhere at moderate if not cheap costs, meaning the damage to costs ratio is incredibly skewed. Why should we give immature and reckless people that power?

    1. Shirt, I agree; indeed, I couldn't agree more. Drones, which undoubtedly arose first as military weapons, have the potential to wreak havoc in the wrong hands if used for the wrong purposes. Now they're available to just about anyone, minimum price $1k or so, to people who (like me) flew model airplanes as kids, and therefore have a head start on flying other remote-controlled devices. Some of those people are well-settled, with something to lose (like me); others are... not so mature. Laws and regulations have to be crafted to fit and serve everybody... not always an easy constraint to meet. America's drones, military, commercial and personal, are a technology of mixed good and bad impact, and I can't venture to say at this point whether the good or the bad predominates. Meanwhile, as that astronomer used to say on TV, "Keep looking up..."

    2. (The TV astronomer's name was Jack Horkheimer; his show was Star Gazer and there's a Wikipedia entry for him.)



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