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Vancouver UAV users could face charges: police

April 20, 2014  By The Vancouver Sun

Vancouver drone operators who use the flying machines to spy on people could face criminal charges of voyeurism or harassment, according to the Vancouver Police Department.

Sgt. Randy Fincham said the police force has had 13 complaints about drone or unmanned aerial vehicles this year, 10 of them since May. The most recent incident occurred Sunday night in the 600-block of Abbott in the neighbourhood known as Crosstown.


Conner Galway was sitting outside on the patio of the 36th floor at about 8:30 p.m. when he first saw the drone for about an hour. It came back again around 10:30 p.m.

He said it came close enough for him to see something moving underneath the body of the drone that looked like a camera lens.

“I thought it was concerning,” he said.

Fincham said in an email that the VPD would become involved if a drone or other high-tech device was used to view or record a person within their own home or apartment, or if the drone caused damage to property or injured someone.

An operator of a drone could face a charge of voyeurism by observing or recording someone who, according to the Criminal Code, “is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

A charge of criminal harassment might occur if the person fears for his or her safety as a result of, for example, being following from place to place or repeatedly being watched at work or home.

“The key to these offences,” Fincham said, “would be the elements of sexual purpose or fearing for one’s safety.”

Fincham advised that it might be prudent to use blinds or other methods of concealment as a security and privacy precaution, “if someone is concerned that they may be visible to the public while they are within the confines of their own home, regardless of one’s reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Galway said what was particularly upsetting was the feeling of violation he experienced when “something is floating a few feet from you, it seems to be looking at you and you can’t do anything about it.”

“I don’t know if it was looking into apartments or outward. My concern primarily is not so much that people can see into your apartment — people can do that with telephoto lenses and binoculars.”

What he’s worried about with the recent incident is safety and the qualifications of the operator to use a drone.

“There is a flying machine up there probably unregulated probably with an untrained driver more than 300 feet above kids playing below,” he said. “There is nothing stopping it from flying into my apartment.”

Galway, who works in digital marketing, said he’s not against drones because he’s used them in his work and knows there are strict regulations on where they can be flown in urban areas.

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