Why Would A Drone Be Following Me

Why Would A Drone Be Following Me?

While walking down the street with your pals, you notice a constant, unfamiliar buzzing or whirring noise overhead. As you look up to see what it is, there’s a tiny drone hovering a few feet above you. 

Concerned about your safety and due to the lack of public awareness of drone privacy, you may wonder why would a drone be following me.

Is it just a random drone or a cause for genuine concern? What steps should I take if I feel uncomfortable with a drone coming after me? 

If these questions are spiralling into your mind, this article answers all of them. So, read on. 

Why Would a Drone Be Following Me, and Should I Be Concerned?

Why Would a Drone Be Following Me, and Should I Be Concerned

Below, I’ve explained the four most common reasons behind a drone following individuals. 

Hobbyist Drone Enthusiasts

Hobbyist drone enthusiasts, to capture stunning aerial shots, often fly their drones over someone’s property without their permission.

Not only is this a violation of their privacy, but it also makes them feel a drone is following them, albeit accidentally.  

How many of you have experienced anything like this? 

Drone Delivery Testing

Drones for delivery services are strictly tested for safety, efficiency, and reliability by flying them along predefined routes and within the regulated airspace.

Despite all this, there’s always a little chance these drones cross your path during testing flights. 

Take the example of Amazon Prime Air. As per some news, I came across a long time back, a drone operated by Amazon Prime Air reportedly followed a jogger for several minutes. 

A similar incident was associated with a drone operated by Google Wing – accused of following a group of children playing in a park. 

Commercial or Professional Drone Use

Mapping, surveying, environmental research, and wildlife monitoring are some leading use cases of drones in the commercial landscape.

Here again, they are professionally operated around the target area or project for data collection and other purposes. 

But there remains a slight chance of these drones unknowingly following you, maybe because you inadvertently entered a research area or wildlife habitat. 

Technical Issues

Lastly, technical issues like signal interference, software glitches, or GPS malfunctions can also lead to a drone following you unintentionally.

This is because, in such a case, the operator loses control over their drone, making it move erratically. 

I’ve personally experienced this with my DJI Mavic 3. One day, I lost control of it, possibly due to a software glitch, and it flew into my neighbor’s house. 

Now that you’ve understood the main reasons behind why a drone would be following me, you may wonder – should I be worried? 

Well, you need not worry in most cases until and unless: 

    • The drone has been following you for an extended period. 

    • It’s flying very close to you.  

    • It has a camera or other surveillance equipment mounted over it.

Privacy and Legal Considerations of Drones Following Individuals

Privacy and Legal Considerations of Drones Following Individuals

Let’s now discuss some privacy issues and legal aspects of drones following individuals. 

Privacy Considerations

    • Any type of drone surveillance infringes upon your privacy rights.

    • Each state has a different set of rules regarding drone use and privacy. 

    • Compliance with state-specific data protection laws, like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), is essential when dealing with personal data captured by drones. 

Legal Considerations

    • Drones must adhere to FAA regulations, respecting restrictions on flying over people and respecting privacy rights.

How Do You Tell If a Drone is Following You?

How Do You Tell If a Drone is Following You

It’s straightforward to tell if a drone is following you. You can:  

    • Listen to the buzzing sound of the drone’s propellers.  

    • Visually observe the UAS by looking up at the sky.

    • Use a radio counter-surveillance system that decodes drone radio signals, pinpointing their origin. 

    • Use a drone detector app like Aerial Armor to get alerts on your mobile device of any drone entering your monitored area. 

If you want a portable solution to tell if a drone is following you, I highly recommend investing in an anti-drone radar detector.

These handheld devices identify specific signals that drones use, helping you stay aware and protect your privacy. Plus, I’m hoping for further future developments in drone tracking technologies. 

What Steps Should I Take if I Feel Uncomfortable With a Drone Following Me?

What Steps Should I Take if I Feel Uncomfortable With a Drone Following Me

If you’re feeling uncomfortable with a drone following you and wondering what steps to take next, here’s what you can do: 

Talk to the Drone Operator

The first thing, and indeed the best you can do, is locate the drone operator and ask politely why they are flying the drone near you.

You can even ask them to fly their drone somewhere else, like around an open field, if required. Most drone pilots are professional enough to understand your concern. 

But what if you’re unable to track down the drone operator? Don’t worry. In such situations, avoid jumping to unnecessary conclusions. 

Drones fly at higher altitudes and often operate from a long distance, like 1 to 4 miles (or 1.6 to 6.4 kilometers). Due to this reason, you may not find the operator nearby. 

What you can do in such a case is wait for some time for the drone to fly past you. Suppose it doesn’t, be cautious, as someone may be keeping a tab on your actions. Prioritize your safety and contact local authorities as soon as you can. 

Don’t Forget to Collect Evidence and Contact the Police

Before you reach out to your local authorities for legal action against the drone operator, don’t forget to collect suitable evidence to support your report.

For example, record the date and time of the incident and capture relevant photos or videos to identify the drone. 

Adequately describe the whole incident to the police, explaining how the actions of the operator are suspicious and unwarranted. This will strengthen your case by helping police identify suspicious drone behavior, ensuring a prompt outcome. 

Report to the FAA

Along with the local police, don’t forget to report any suspicious drone activity to the FAA by contacting your local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO.)    

You can contact a FSDO for: 

    • Low-flying aircraft

    • Reporting suspicious drone activity

    • Air carrier certification and operations

    • Aircraft maintenance

    • Aircraft operational issues

    • Aircraft permits

    • Licensing for pilots, mechanics, repairers, dispatchers, and parachute riggers

    • Certification and modification issues

    • Enforcement of airmen & aircraft regulations

    • Illegal air charter

Real-Life Examples of Drones Following People

There have been numerous instances, just in the United States, of drones deployed to follow or track people. 

Here’s one such case. 

A couple, Todd and Heather Maxon, accused the authorities of Long Lake Township, Michigan, of hiring a contractor to fly a drone as low as 150 feet over their private property multiple times over two years.

This is after the Township allegedly found the couple illegally storing “junk” on their property. For the whole story, read here

Similarly, you’ll find other stories of drones being used to track people, especially by the police

Conclusion 

Drones following individuals have become a common sight, not just in the US but around the globe. 

While it’s primarily recreational flyers who often end up tracking you accidentally, I’ve also encountered instances where the government itself probes into your private life through these UAVs. Read this news piece by the Institute for Justice (IfJ) for more information. 

If you’re worried about your aerial surveillance through drones, the best you can do is talk to the drone operator or contact local law enforcement authorities for legal action if talks don’t work out for you.

Until then, happy flying. And don’t forget to share this article with your friends. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What Are the Legal Rights and Regulations Regarding Drones Tracking Individuals?

A: There aren’t fixed legal rights or regulations regarding drone tracking individuals, as every state has different laws and regulations for safeguards against drone following. 

Hence, I recommend you to please check with your local authorities for your legal rights.  

Q: When Is Drone Following Considered Suspicious or Alarming?

A: Well, there isn’t a direct answer to this. But still, I consider a drone following me suspicious or alarming in the following situations:

    • It has been behind me for an extended period. 

    • It’s flying very close to me.  

    • It has got a camera or other surveillance equipment mounted over it. 

Q: How Can Individuals Protect Their Privacy From Drones?

A: There are a lot of ways through which you can protect your privacy from drones. Below are some of my suggestions:

    • Try to avoid wandering into areas prone to drone overflights. 

    • Install physical barriers (if possible) around your property to obstruct drone aerial surveillance. 

Q: What Are the Technological Solutions to Prevent Unauthorized Drone Tracking?

A: I must say that the technology has undoubtedly advanced to a great extent to prevent unauthorized drone tracking of individuals.

Radio Frequency (RF) Analysers, Acoustic Sensors (Microphones), Optical Sensors (Cameras), and Radar are just a handful of examples. 

Q: Can Recreational Drone Operators Unintentionally Follow People?

A: This is pretty common, frankly speaking. Recreational drone operators, as long as they aren’t violating these guidelines laid down by the FAA, can unintentionally follow you and others. I’ve been followed by endless drones so far!

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *