User Tools

Site Tools


Drones and Privacy

Reason I'm writing This

a post on the Foresdale Facebook page had this:

“Just wanting to let you about a possible peeping tom!!! My neighbours wife was sitting in her lounge about 9.00pm Friday night, when a drone with flashing lights on it and a CAMERA drop down in front of their lounge windows. She grabbed phone to ring cops and it took off immediately. Has anyone else has similar experience?”

this was accompanied with a photo of a DJI Mavic pro drone, which was not the device involved because the photo was taken in daylight. so what is not clear, is what the reported device was.

More recently 4/3/2024 was this post:

“We have just had a drone buzzing over our place. When we initially spotted the drone it was just hovering overlooking the back of our property then flew over the front yard. Then took off. Concerning.”

My background with Drones, Etc

I have been using quadcopters (flying devices with four propellers), remotely piloted aircraft and drones for about 4 years. although I no longer use it I also have had a private pilots licence for over 40 years. I have a fair amount of knowledge of aviation rules, but most of what im writing here is my interpretation of the laws, as I know them. as the lawyers say, seek your own independent legal advice.

Responsible use of Flying Cameras

most people that have drones or quadcopters, that have cameras on them, use them responsibly. but just like all things in life, there are a few people that do the wrong thing and the whole issue of drones gets a bad reputation. I always do my best to respect people's privacy. I appreciate that most people would expect no one to be looking in their window. that is how it should be, but the legal system doesn't treat it that way. see more below.

Drone Laws Perceptions and Morals re Privacy

The law to do with drones is administered by the Civil aviation safety authority.

Here is their interpretation of their laws:

They do NOT cover privacy, because CASA jurisdiction is about aviation safety not privacy. as it says on the above website privacy is covered by other, non CASA laws.

Privacy Laws re Drones

as this page shows:

privacy laws basically are only applicable to large organisations,NOT to individuals. and also maybe not applicable to media organisations. so an individual person flying a drone as was described above would not be breaking any privacy laws. but morally maybe doing something wrong. See more below.

Small Drones and Toys

If the devise in the above was less than 250 g then none of the drone CASA laws apply. most toy flying cameras are less than 250 g. also the latest technology which allows recording of 4K video from the most popular drone manufacturer in the world, DJI, is less than 250g

there exists some very small quadcopters that are only the size of a 20 cent coin. some of them also have cameras the size of a small fingernail.

Air Space is not Private its Public

even though you own your own property, the airspace around it is not private. if it was, aircraft would not be able to fly over your house. the airspace extends from the ground upwards,outside any buildings. it does not include the space inside your house or inside any buildings on your land.

therefore a flying camera, not being held by any body, is not in private space, and photographing or videoing with such a device in such circumstances is not illegal. just like it is not illegal for somebody to photograph or video through somebody's window with a very large zoom lens, whilst standing in a public street. also while Google Street view is not illegal


but this is not the perception that most people have. most people believe that if someone is looking in their window, they are doing so illegally. if thay were standing on somebody's property while doing that, they could be trespassing and it could be illegal. but if the person doing so is not standing on the person's property as can be done with a flying camera, then it's not illegal.

it's only because of the technology we now have, that it is possible to do things that law makers never thought of ever being capable of being done.


I would never fly my drone directly in front of somebodys window with the intention of spying on them or delberatly infringing their privacy, as regardless of the law, I feel that is morally wrong.

after reading a lot of websites and watching many videos about drones , I get the feeling that most drone operators have the same morals as I do.

it's impossible to create, and more importantly enforce laws to handle everybody's morals.

Some perspective about concerns about Drones

Hopefully without creating more paranoia about drones, I wish to point out that with the modern technology being built into in particular military grade drones that it is easily possible for the drone operators or people on the same data stream, to easily see inside any uncovered window and definitely see people in the yards of ther property.

But this ability is nothing new. Intelligence organizations operate in buildings that do not have windows because the technology has been available for over 20 years that enabled Satellites to be able to read news print size text through uncovered windows.

I more recently was told that a laser beam, when pointed at a window pane can be used as a microphone so that people talking near that window can be herd. Laser beams, being light, can go extremely long distances.

Perhaps the concern should be about what can not, obviously be seen.

Specific points on Facebook Comments

  1. Ringing the police: the Queensland police do not have authority over federal jurisdiction matters CASA is a federal government department
  2. did anyone report it to the police: see above point. often even the police don't know that it is not illegal
  3. hit it with a brick, gel blaster, tennis racquet, orange cannon: you could end up getting sued for damaging somebody else's property. the drone was in a (legal) public space
  4. invasion of someones privacy: legally no morally yes
  5. about a 2 km range: my DJI Mavic has a 7 km range. but the CASA laws say that I have to have it visual line of sight at all times and only in daylight hours.
  6. why isn't it illegal: if it were anybody looking down from an aircraft would be breaking the law. trying to set the demarcation points, heights, distances of what is acceptable and what's not would be extremely difficult. See about Greenbank military camp below
  7. possible peeping Tom : but not likely
  8. people always assume the worst: only some people

Greenbank Military Camp

the Greenbank military camp is a designated restricted area for aviation. that means that drones over 250 g are not allowed to fly over it.

the designated restricted zone area of Greenbank military camp was set many years ago. hence it includes large parts of Forestdale, including the chase Forestdale drive Johnson road and part of Robin Court.

the reason the Greenbank military camp was set as a restricted area is because they occasionally do live firing their and it could be possible for a stay bullet or a large explosion, to damage an aircraft, with a possible loss of life or injury

present drones don't carry people, so there is very little likelihood of a drone being shot down, causing a loss of life or injury

yet that law still exists.

just shows how laws with demarcation lines can have unexpected consequences

drone_privacy.txt · Last modified: 2024/03/05 14:47 by geoff