drones55Is this a new form of high-tech voyeurism?

A building manager called police on Sunday after a Seattle woman spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle hovering outside the window of her apartment.

The men who were piloting the drone also were spotted carrying a tripod and video equipment, driving away before police arrived, reports our news partner KIRO Radio.

Interestingly, the men may not have broken any laws, since it is legal to take photographs and videos from public spaces. (Readers of GeekWire may know this based on our past coverage of the so-called “Creepy Cameraman.”)

That may seem a bit crazy, but Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts is attempting to push through legislation — the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act — that would prevent drone operators from violating the privacy of others.

Just last week, Markey proposed an amendment that would require that certain privacy rules be followed when operating a drone, reports Roll Call.

Photo via Shutterstock
Photo via Shutterstock

“Before drones start delivering packages, we need the FAA to deliver privacy protections for the American public. Convenience should never trump constitutional protections,” Markey said earlier this year. “Before our skies teem with commercial drones, clear rules must be set that protect the privacy and safety of the public.”

The FAA today issued a clarification related to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, stating that they only be used for hobby or recreational purposes. Privacy was not directly discussed in the press release, though FAA Administrator Michael Huerta noted that the agency has a “mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission.”

Last week, The National Park Service instituted a temporary ban inside the 401 National Parks and Monuments in the U.S. And last summer, then Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn pulled the plug on a controversial drone program that was to be instituted by the Seattle police department.

UPDATE: A Portland company by the name of Skyris Imaging says that it operated the drone outside the apartment building in downtown Seattle, with CEO Joe Vaughn telling KGW in Portland that the drone was being used to photography skyline views used by architects, real estate agents and developers. Vaughn said he had permission from the property owner to operate the drone outside of the building.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Flamingo Tail

    Geekwire should get a copy of the police report and post it online – I would guess that someone will read it any will be instantly able to determine who did this.

  • Law is already there

    If the drone was used to look inside the woman’s apartment (not at the street below), that’s already illegal and would be prosecuted under peeping tom laws. It’s a class C Felony in Washington. From the RCW:


    (1) As used in this section:

    (a) “Intimate areas” means any portion of a person’s body or undergarments that is covered by clothing and intended to be protected from public view;

    (b) “Photographs” or “films” means the making of a photograph, motion picture film, videotape, digital image, or any other recording or transmission of the image of a person;

    (c) “Place where he or she would have a reasonable expectation of privacy” means:

    (i) A place where a reasonable person would believe that he or she could disrobe in privacy, without being concerned that his or her undressing was being photographed or filmed by another; or

    (ii) A place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance;

    (d) “Surveillance” means secret observation of the activities of another person for the purpose of spying upon and invading the privacy of the person;

    (e) “Views” means the intentional looking upon of another person for more than a brief period of time, in other than a casual or cursory manner, with the unaided eye or with a device designed or intended to improve visual acuity.

    (2) A person commits the crime of voyeurism if, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of any person, he or she knowingly views, photographs, or films:

    (a) Another person without that person’s knowledge and consent while the person being viewed, photographed, or filmed is in a place where he or she would have a reasonable expectation of privacy; or

    (b) The intimate areas of another person without that person’s knowledge and consent and under circumstances where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, whether in a public or private place.

    (3) Voyeurism is a class C felony.

    • jon

      Thank you for your reminder that everyone is entitled to their privacy, not just the rich and famous.

  • Robert McInnis

    Please for the love of god Fix this story and issue a statement as NBC News who broke the story has done.

    Update: The owner of the drone is a Portland, OR.-based company called Skyris Imaging, which was doing photography related to a planned apartment building at that site. You can see the picture it took at local Portland news channel KGW.

    and its not a bloody drone its a Multi rotor (hexacopter,6 blade varient), drones fly autonomously, whether fixed with helicopter or multirotor,

  • Jim

    My dream is to sell drone killing slingshots..

Job Listings on GeekWork