Jim Duffy: Stop drone sales to defend privacy

Drone images of Edinburgh's Christmas. from a registered drone operator
Drone images of Edinburgh's Christmas. from a registered drone operator
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It is time to think of defending our privacy from the invasion in the sky – let’s stop all sales of drones, writes Jim Duffy

Imagine if you will, that you are on holiday, sitting around the pool with your family.

This could include your young children, teenage daughters or babies.

You are all in your speedos, bikinis or swimsuits. Your children and grandchildren are all playing at the poolside. Your teenage daughters have sprayed on the suntan lotion and are soaking up the rays. It’s a scene played out every day at holiday destinations all over the world.


But there is danger lurking and this time it’s not a wasp in the swimming pool. It sounds like a wasp and moves like one, but is much more dangerous.

It’s a drone. And it could be taking close-up photos of your teenage daughters or livestreaming videos of your toddlers to thousands of banned websites. And there is nothing you can do about it. Sound extreme? Well, this is one side of the coin where 21st century remote-controlled tech is concerned.

Like those dreadful drones themselves, things are moving so fast. And I am worried.

Of course, there is some fantastic work being done with drones bringing hitherto unseen landscapes to life and capturing amazing images. I recognise most owners will be as horrified as I am at any misuse.

I am fascinated to see what Amazon has planned with driverless cars, robot posties and the like. And Glasgow is just the place for a Bond-style futuristic underwater car.

But the reality is that serious misuse of drones is happening. Recently, while a family were lounging on their sunbeds in Spain, a teenage male was watching them from nearby. He was out of sight but flying his drone above the pool, able to take videos that could be uploaded to the internet almost instantly. In this case, the mother sensed her family was being filmed and went looking for the drone operator. She found him and requested that he stop, but he ignored her. She then threatened to call the police as she felt he was sexually assaulting her. At this, the teen stopped and left the scene. It takes the notion of a “peeping tom” to another level – up to 100ft.

As the drones become more sophisticated, so the misuse will continue. Yes, there are guidelines but when anyone can buy a top end drone with amazing camera technology for £1,000, then who is going to police their use and misuse? The authorities are rightly focused on drones not flying in aircraft airspace but there seems little control beyond that.

What about the hobbyist drone user? The one who has it silently hovering above your property while you are blissfully unaware? It is capable of filming you, then posting it all to social media, while you’ve not given permission or even had time to pout! And this is just amateur hour, guys capturing stuff they know is a bit naughty. What about the real villains? The explosion in amateur drone use plus the lowering costs of these flying TV networks means nefarious use will only increase. In effect, you are powerless to stop this at present and as for the police they do not have resources – be it the manpower or the jetpacks – to sort this out.

I get the attraction, I’m as curious as the next man and if I’m being honest, if I was to buy a drone, then I’d want to use it to see things I can’t usually see and capture images that I shouldn’t really have access to. It’s the nature of the beast with a drone to want to explore new horizons –and there’s the rub: these new horizons often mean invading other people’s privacy.

Drones are not toys, they were developed for military use because they are dangerous covert weapons with high potential. They are infiltrating our towns and cities with no tangible limitations on their use or users. This discussion came up recently on a radio talk show and the caller said he reserved the right to shoot down a drone above his property. Shoot down? With what? In Scotland we have the toughest gun laws in the western world – and quite rightly so. A bow and arrow won’t cut it.

Like all new regulation, it will take a serious accident, involvement in a serious crime or a death before the authorities take action. Drones should classed be like air weapons and treated in the same way. A determined drone operator could arguably cause a lot more damage than a .22 air rifle.

I can see both sides of the argument, but you may have noticed that I’m not sitting on the fence on this one. I honestly believe action is needed now with the current state of laws and understanding – or the lack of it. Therefore, until we get that reassurance, I am calling for a moratorium on the sale of all drones in Scotland with immediate effect. I am also calling for powers for our police so that they can take incisive action immediately to confiscate drones that are causing annoyance.

I want a drone-free Scotland – who’s with me?