Hey, there! Log in / Register

Drone wars: Newton man sues over new city drone restrictions

A Newton doctor who says he uses a drone to photograph what he says is illegal city snow dumping in a local park is asking a federal judge to block a Newton ordinance that makes it illegal to fly the small aircraft over property without a property owner's consent.

In a suit filed in US District Court this week, Michael Singer says the city is illegally trying to block him from using a drone to capture the dumping of "snow and refuse" in Nahanton Park.

Although city councilors said their main concern in passing limits on drones last month was to protect residents' privacy, Singer charges the city is depriving him of his privacy by forcing him to register his drone use - and even his flying a rubber-band-powered balsa-wood airplane - with the city clerk.

He says the regulation also violates his First Amendment rights to "constitutionally protected information gathering" and his Fifth Amendment rights to due process, as well as FAA airspace regulations.

Neighborhoods: 
Free tagging: 
AttachmentSize
PDF icon Complete Singer complaint747.63 KB

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

Look at how users of some popular mainstream web sites have been conditioned to have no respect for anyone else's privacy.

We're going to see a lot of photos and videos publicly on the Internet of "look what my neighbor is doing in their fenced back yard" and "looks like my neighbor needs better window blinds". And the pedos, wherever they post. And the nosy people who don't post, but for whatever reason are willing to violate reasonable expectations of privacy (not that this is new in neighborhoods, but now they'll have aerial technology, cheap ways of seeing and listening though walls, etc.).

One of the best things we can do right now is to instill in people a greater respect for the privacy and rights of others than we've needed in recent history. Unfortunately, we're doing a lot of the opposite, on respect for privacy.

up
Voting closed 0

Your notion of privacy is not supported by law or by rational thinking.

up
Voting closed 0

And by laws pertaining to harassment, trespassing, peeping toms, and violating reasonable expectations of privacy, though "reasonable" varies by interpretation.

up
Voting closed 0

Individual property laws give you airspace rights up to 500 feet, unless there's MA (or Newton) statute Google isn't showing me. Which means whoever owns the property below the drone flight path can decide what can and can't fly at low altitude. He miiiiight have a leg to stand on for the park itself, but it sounds like he wants to be allowed to fly his stupid remote helicopter over all the houses between him and the site of the alleged snow dumping.

Which is why I'll be investing in some medium-weight fishing net and a propulsion system. Fly your drone somewhere else.

up
Voting closed 0

Agree with everything you're saying.

Allowing this man to fly a drone essentially wherever he wants on private property is a dangerous precedent.

up
Voting closed 0

I believe you are not allowed to interfere with a drone which is over your property, even illegally?

up
Voting closed 0

Your drones are not allowed to interfere with my net experiments in the privacy of my own backyard.

up
Voting closed 0

A drone is considered an aircraft under federal law, and interfering with an aircraft like that can get you into federal criminal trouble.

You should instead be looking to restrict the use of drones by law. And promoting respect for privacy.

up
Voting closed 0

Goodness no, I would never interfere with legal operation of an aircraft.

However, I would not feel awful if my remarkably uncoordinated net juggling practice happened to encounter some peeping tom's toy. It's my yard, I can do what I want. And you can't.

Which may help explain why dozens of drone operators have already been prosecuted, fined up to 1.9 million, convicted of reckless endangerment, or had their real pilot's licenses taken away, all for illegal operation of drones, but nobody has yet been convicted for bringing one down on his own property, despite this happening with some regularity.

up
Voting closed 0

[CITATION NEEDED]

You still don't get it do you? You are NOT ALLOWED TO INTERFERE with operation of an aircraft, whether it's above your property, on your property, or in your anus. And no, you can't do whatever you want in your yard. We have things called laws and ordinances - try playing loud music at 1am and see what happens.

And to poke a hole in your last argument,
https://petapixel.com/2015/06/29/man-wins-lawsuit-against-neighbor-who-s...

up
Voting closed 0

The case you cite actually supports my argument, not yours.

The man was ordered, as a result of a civil suit in small claims court, to pay the cost of a new drone. There was no prosecution for any law specifically relating to drones. The man had to replace the drone he broke, same as if he'd shot a mailbox or a kite. (NB: in a place like Boston, he'd also be facing gun charges).

The drone was also shot down over the neighbor's yard, not the shooter's. The case may have been decided otherwise if the drone could have been demonstrated to be trespassing.

Yes, trespassing. California has a bill in the works - SB 142 - that will classify flying drones over someone else's private property as trespassing.

As for the FAA's position on the matter, this from your source's source:

Thus far, the FAA has not charged anyone who has shot down a drone with violating that law, though the FAA has made it explicit that shooting at a drone is illegal.

Nonetheless, there have been a handful of drones shot down over the last couple years.

Really, kid, the FAA doesn't give a damn about your drone. They care about real aircraft, about the airspace, and about national security. Your drone is just a pain in their ass. So number it, register it, file a flight plan, and expect to be fined or arrested if you do otherwise. And keep it out of other people's yards, or it might not come back.

up
Voting closed 0

The Newton doctor can't afford a lawyer good enough to poke a hole in that argument, I'm sure.

up
Voting closed 0

"Which is why I'll be investing in some medium-weight fishing net and a propulsion system"

Enjoy your *federal* charges for harming an aircraft. That's right: drones, now that they're regulated by the FAA, are considered aircraft.

Destroy one and you'll face some very, very serious charges equivalent to if you downed a small Cessna.

up
Voting closed 0

That guy who shot the drone over his backyard was eventually cleared of all charges.

up
Voting closed 0

You've got it precisely backwards, kid. Your drone has a number on it so YOU can be prosecuted. The equation of drones to real aircraft was made so illegal drone operators can successfully be convicted on serious charges, as if their shenanigans involved real aircraft. And they have been prosecuted, by the dozens .

Knocking down some jackhole's drone on your own property? As long as you weren't breaking other laws (e.g. Firearm discharge in city limits) you will never be convicted, and will likely never be charged.

up
Voting closed 0

What an idiot. He wants to sit in his pajamas and fly drones over to across town from his basement, no matter how many houses, people, or roads he flies over, in violation of federal law?

Let him get his fat ass off his couch, put his damn drone in his car, and drive the three blocks over there in person, so he can play with his toys legally.

The lawsuit is hilarious. I like the part about how the Strato Streak balsa-wood airplane is a "pilotless aircraft" in violation of ordinances. Good work, I hope it costs Singer a lot.

up
Voting closed 0

If federal law already controls drones (including a registration requirement), why does Newton need its own law?

up
Voting closed 0

And wankers like Singer can't snow people with vague appeals to federal law they don't quite understand.

up
Voting closed 0

He isn't asking to fly it over people's houses.

He's asking to fly it over a public park, which is not covered by the federal regulations.

The way the Newton regulation is written, they are saying that the public park is not truly public and that the city has to give him permission to document their longstanding illegal dumping there.

No pajamas involved, no matter how much you enjoy thinking about that.

up
Voting closed 0

I believe he's citing the balsa plane (and the other tiny half-ounce thing he references) as examples of how ludicrous he thinks the law is, not that he's immediately affected by that.

up
Voting closed 0

Count on it.

up
Voting closed 0

I get his irritation over the alleged illegal dumping. So drive over and take some cel phone photos and then bring it up with your town councilor. Tell your neighbors. And then go to City Hall and complain. Or is what I've listed too much work already?

up
Voting closed 0

You'll see he claims he uses a drone to supplement his walks through the park (a lot of it is boringish legalese you can skim over - and it's surprisingly good legalese for a non-lawyer, which I say, of course, as a non-lawyer myself, but I've read a fair number of pro-se briefs and, well, even the ones that are typed are often not so good, legalwise, Englishwise or logicwise).

up
Voting closed 0

On the contrary, Singer's remarkably prolix discussion of the grand history of air travel and navigation is both humorous and ridiculous.

The heart of the complaint is that he thinks it's unfair that he cannot fly a drone in a city park without the Parks Department approving it.

You know what else you can't do in a Newton city park without the Parks Department approving it? Just about anything else that is fun: use a boat, climb a tree, bring an animal, throw a snowball, play a game, use a building, cook a hot dog, run a race... So now the Ordinance makes it official that you can't fly a drone either, without permission. That's in keeping with all current use restrictions of the parks; it's not singling out drones for special treatment, just subjecting them to the same restrictions as all similar uses.

The very silly man asserts rights he does not have, and gets all in a lather about it.

up
Voting closed 0

If you are flying a drone over someones property without prior permission and within bird-shot range you should have no right to cry when your drone goes missing.

up
Voting closed 0

He is objecting to the city claiming that he needs permission to fly it over a public park.

While pointing out the reasons why the city wants to keep him from flying the drone over the public park.

up
Voting closed 0

Wow, a lot of stupid in comments. I don't fly drones, I know there are some stupid people out there doing stupid things with drones, but people screaming about how everyone who flies drones is an evil peeping tom.... are STUPID.

Did I say "stupid" yet?

up
Voting closed 0

They seem like good fun, just keep them over your own property. Otherwise if someone shouts PULL and removes it from the sky over their property, well that is your problem.

up
Voting closed 0