2nd Dec, 2016

Drones spark concern over residents privacy in Westwood Ward

Coventry Editorial 23rd Jul, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

DRONES buzzing around the Coventry skies have sparked concern among residents enjoying the summer sunshine in the privacy of their own gardens.

Westwood Ward councillor, Tim Mayer, says he has been inundated with complaints from Westwood Ward residents about low-flying drones hovering above their properties infringing on their privacy.

The small, unmanned aircraft can be operated remotely and often include cameras to enable long-range flying – a fact many residents a

Speaking to the Observer, Coun Mayer said: “There have been a number of complaints about drones in the Tile Hill south and Westwood Heath area.

“But the complaints have not been about the quantity of drones – they have centred more around people feeling intruded and spied upon in their own homes.

“I am sure the pilots of the drones are flying them innocently, but some residents have told me they are concerned people could be using the cameras to scope out homes for potential criminal activity.”

Under Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules, drones should always be visible at all times to the pilot and must not be flown higher than 400ft or interfere with aircraft or helicopters.

Drones fitted with cameras must also not be flown withing 50 metres of people, vehicles or buildings and structures – meaning flying them in most residential areas in the city would be out of bounds.

However, with the long-rang capabilities of many drones Coun Mayer said enforcing the rules and clamping down on anti-social pilots would be a challenge.

“The reality is that drones have become much cheaper in recent years,” Coun Mayer explained.

“At Christmas they were one of the most popular presents and there is no doubt that flying one is a lot of fun, but we need to make sure they are not upsetting residents who are minding their own business.

“Anyone who feels they are the victim of repeated anti-social drone flying should gather as much information as possible – including when, where and if they know the pilot – and report it to the community safety team, which has partnered with West Midlands Police to tackle the issue.

“My message to drone users is that we are not trying to spoil their fun, but they should just have a real read up on legislation before take-off.

“We have a lot of green space around Coventry, so why not make use of it and fly the drones in the countryside rather than above the backgardens of other residents.”

A West Midlands Police spokesperson echoed the CAA rules and added: “Use your common sense and fly safely – making sure you can see the drone at all times.

“If you are using one with a camera, make sure you inform people before you start recording and be aware of your surroundings.

“Misuse of a drone can lead to a criminal offence being committed.”