Drones: Are they illegal, or just annoying?


By Russ Kent, Editor

A rural Galion woman grew concerned when she spotted a drone hovering over the Heise Park pool Sunday afternoon.

“It was kind of creepy,” said Sharri Peater, who was swimming with her kids. “The guy flying it had on camouflage pants and a black t-shirt.”

It was an out-of-the-ordinary event

“The kids are the ones who noticed it. It was about 30- or 40-feet in the air,” Peater said. “I don’t know what it was doing.”

But she was worried enough that she found out who was operating the drone and asked some questions.

Galion Police Department officer Ryan Novik said it never hurts to make some inquiries.

Peater called police. And after the drone operator told her he was a freelance photographer for the Galion Inquirer, she called us and left a message.

As far as I can tell, whoever was flying the drone was not affiliated with this newspaper. And we do not have a drone, so that fact in itself is a little disconcerting to me.

But telling a lie is not against the law.

And when it comes to drones, rules and regulations, and laws and ordinances, are few and far between.

As in the case of the Internet, technology is advancing faster than the law. As the use of drones expands, so does the call to get a handle on is flying them and what are they doing with them.

Basically, a drone can be flown in any public area and used pretty much as pleased, as long as the operator is not breaking any current law.

“They can’t be flown in restricted airspace (airports, prisons),” Novik said. “I also know the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is looking at the idea or having them registered if they are a certain size.”

The use of drones will continue to grow.

If you didn’t get one for the kids — or for your hubby — for Christmas, you may have gotten your dad a drone for Father’s Day. There are clubs, organizations, societies, associations, websites and Facebook pages that focus on drones.

They come in all sizes, from just a few inches in diameter to several feet wide. You can spend anywhere from a few dollars to thousands on your drone. Some come with cameras. Many don’t. They’re just flown for fun.

Some are used by the military for surveillance or to kill terrorists on the ground. Border patrol agents use drones as their eyes in the sky to stop illegals from entering the country along the U.S./Mexican border. Police, sheriff’s departments, the highway patrol and the DEA use drones to help in searches

Unfortunately, some are used for illicit reasons.

In recent months, in Richland County, drones have been suspected of flying over prison yards and dropping illegal contraband to inmates.

They also have been used to invade privacy. A Kentucky resident recently shot a drone out of the air. He said it was taking pictures of his daughter. They have been used to peak into the hotel rooms and vacation homes of celebrities to capture that “gotcha” moment and a pic that can be sold to a tabloid for thousands of dollars.

Was the drone drone operator at Heise Park doing anything illegal?

Peater doesn’t know. But she wasn’t going to take chances.

Novik said Peater did the right thing.

“If you have some questions call us,” he said. “We’ll check into it.”

That’s why she confronted the drone operator and got a description of him and of the vehicle he was driving. She also got a license plate number …. just in case.

“I just didn’t know,” she said

The license plate number was forwarded to Galion police, and if it turns out those involved were for some reason doing something they shouldn’t have been involved in, the police department will get involved.

In most cases, drone operators are doing nothing illegal. They are just having fun. But you can never know.

Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer, Morrow County Sentinel and Bellville Star. He has lived in Galion much of his life. If you have a comment or a story idea, email him at [email protected].

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