The sensitivities of individual people, as well as the privacy expectations of the general public, both came into full view during a confrontation between the pilot of a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and a woman who appears to have been agitated by the photographer’s activity at Hammonasset Beach in Madison, CT.
Police charged 23-year-old Andrea Mears with 3rd degree assault and disturbing the peace after she allegedly attacked the unnamed 17-year-old photographer (who captured the assault on his iPhone). A full report of the incident can be read here or at this news coverage published by WFSB TV in Hartford, CT.
Here is the video, which is quickly spawning on YouTube.
Mears is being universally decried on social media with few, if any, people supporting her view that she was entitled privacy at a public beach. However, the episode underscores the perceived threat some people feel from aerial photography as well as the general confusion which surrounds this fast-emerging form of videography.
Until there is more public acceptance and understanding, here are some best practices for UAV photography pilots:
- Prior to production, double check to ensure you are on public property.
- Prior to takeoff, identify an isolated area, away from any people or crowds, where you can safely take off and land.
- Make any flight passes at an elevation that’s high enough to avoid giving the public a sense they might be injured from the UAV itself.
- When you are engaged by a member of the public, clearly identify yourself and the purpose of your video. Ask upfront if they have any concerns.
- Disarm any anger by being prepared to discuss the difference between public and private property, as well as steps you’ve undertaken to protect the privacy of others.
- If the project is for commercial use, make sure to obtain the proper permits.
- Connect with local authorities in advance of the production to post them on its date/time and steps that are undertaken to preserve public safety.