Sunday, December 27, 2015


As an active pilot, I have my own opinion on those noisy privacy robbing little hazards to navigation.  Except while landing or taking off, manned aircraft have to stay at least 500 feet away from any person, vehicle, or structure.  And unless the area is sparsely populated, we have to stay at above 1000 feet.

I'm often vectored over Haulover Beach (clothing optional beach northeast of Miami) at 1000 to 1500 feet.  Trust me, unless you're a passenger who knows what you're looking for and has a very steady hand with binoculars, you're not going to be able to tell whether people are clothed or not from that altitude.  OK, you can tell that for some reason there's a lot of dots in one area (the CO section) and hardly any, anywhere else. And you can make out the "snow fence" that separates the areas, but that's it.  Being down at 500 feet isn't much better.  Besides, most pilots don't like being that low and we're way too busy watching out for cell phone and radio towers down there to be spending time looking down trying to make out what people are, or aren't, wearing.  I know where almost all the clubs are in Florida because I've been to them, and for various reasons, I've flown over most of them.  Never once, in decades of flying and knowing where to look, have I ever been able to tell whether someone on the ground was naked or not from the air.  The same is true while landing and taking off.  The ground is whizzing by too quickly and we're way too busy to be noticing if you're sunbathing naked in your back yard.

Drones are another story.  Johnny's new toy is typically fitted with an HD camera and can be flow beyond line of sight using a live video feed or a preassigned GPS driven flight path.  They're supposed to be below 400 feet (to stay out of our way) and most of them can stay in a stabilized hover for a long period of time, taking very detailed pictures and videos.  The law hasn't caught up, and for now you can't do much if your neighbor, or your neighbor's kids, decide to spy on you.

Here in the US, all but the smallest drones are now supposed to be registered.  Whatever good that will do.  Manned aircraft have registration (tail) numbers, usually at least a foot high, painted across them.  Is Johnny supposed to drag a banner behind his drone with big enough registration numbers on it that people call in with it when they complain?  Good luck.

And good luck expecting the law to do anything.  The airspace above your property really isn't yours, and other than trying to make a general "disturbing the peace" complaint stick, there's not much they'll do about it.  Even in rural areas where discharge from a firearm isn't a problem, expect it will be a problem if you try to shoot one of them down.  You've destroyed  their property and they can often argue that they had a right to be there.

Until all that gets sorted out, we have two choices:  Stay indoors, or ignore them.  While I might be perfectly OK ignoring my neighbor's new toy, not caring if they see me naked or not, other people do mind.  Do we clear our beaches and run for cover when one shows up overhead at our clubs?  I hope not.  But we do need to press for laws that at least discourage people from doing that.  I'm fine with allowing people to fire at them with birdshot when they're over our properties.  But until that's allowed, expect the middle finger salute from this naked guy below.  I'm not going anywhere.

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