The occupants of the house whose back garden backs on to our own back garden have recently started flying a drone. They hover the drone in their back garden looking over the wall into our back garden as well as flying it over our back garden and the roof of our house. They have used the drone to hover directly over our own garden when we have been outside playing with our children.
We have two main concerns: first that they could lose control of the drone while flying over our garden, possibly injuring us or the children; and secondly, we feel it is an invasion of our privacy. Both houses are in housing estates in a built-up urban area. We are also located near Weston Airport. Is there anything we can do about this? Their house is in a neighbouring estate so we don’t know the occupants or which house they are in.
Any advice you could give us would be much appreciated.
From the information you have supplied the drone operator may be breaking a number of rules and regulations, such as Statutory Instruments 563 of 2015; this is the document that governs drone operations and is on the Irish Aviation Authority website. Along with this document there is also one called, Aeronautical Notice U4 – "Exemption from controlled airspace permission requirement for certain drone operations". This stipulates the times and locations in which drones can be flown inside controlled airspace up to a height of 15m (50ft). But in U4, Weston Airport is one of the "drone no-fly zones".
To find out the distance you are from the airport, simply use Google Earth's measuring tool. Draw a straight line from the middle of the runway to your house. If it is less than 3km the drone operator is inside the no-fly zone. If it is outside 3km, the drone operator should have contacted Weston Airport and informed it of their intentions. That said Weston Airport sits inside Dublin Control Traffic Region and to fly inside this region you require permission.
One of the conditions of this approved permission is the drone operator must contact Dublin Air Traffic Control if going above 15m (50ft). You can apply and get this permission only if you hold a Specific Operating Permission and a Pilot Competency Certificate. To gain these you must attend a Ground Theoretical course run by one of the six registered training facilities in the country, either iFly Technology, Iris Sky Systems, Thunder Tiger Aviation, Safe Drone Academy, Sky Tech or FlyRyte Drone Academy.
During the ground theoretical course, you must pass a written exam and then at a later date a flight exam with one of the IAA-approved flight examiners. The drone operator must have third-party public liability insurance in place before this flight exam can be conducted.
The full document S.I 563 of 2015 is freely available for anyone to read on the Irish Aviation Authority website (iaa.ie/general-aviation/drones). On this website there is also detailed information regarding the flying of drones in Ireland.
The drone operator may also be breaking data protection laws, so please check the link the IAA has on its website for in-depth information on this topic. Given that you do not know the identity of the drone operators and are unable to outline your concerns to them in person, the best course of action may be to refer the matter to your local Garda station.
They can confiscate the drone if they deem the operator is acting in a negligent or reckless manner. Based on the information you have given, I would consider this to be the best course of action.
Wayne Floyd is a chief remote pilot instructor for Murphy Surveys