Suspicious drone activity

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Lava Hot Springs– A drone was seen hovering around the second floor of ‘The Suites of Lava Hot Springs‘ around 10:30pm Friday, June 30th by the establishments proprietor, Julie Hill. It’s unclear whether the drone operators intentions were malicious or innocent, but when Mrs. Hill tried to follow the drone back to its operator they took evasive action as to not be located. Mrs. Hill reached out on Facebook for help identifying the operator and for advice on what to do in such a situation.

Drones operating in what seems to be an unsafe or malicious manner is certainly on the rise. Almost everybody has a story about an uncomfortable run-in with a drone. During the 2016, 24th of July parade there was a drone hovering around and last summer a drone was seen operating at the Lava Hot Springs swimming complex. “It spent at least 10 minutes hovering just feet above pool goers trying to enjoy their day before disappearing in the direction of the Condominiums,” stated an eye witness.

There is a lot of dialogue about drones and similar occurrences, but nobody really seems to know what to do about it. Because of such instances the FAA has finally had to step in and start regulating drone activity, but most of the public is still unaware of whats legal, whats not and what they can do about it. We did some research to help answer these questions.

The most commonly asked question is “Is it legal to shoot down a drone with a shotgun if its on my property?”
In short, No. It is a federal crime. Even if the drone is over your property they are operating under the authority of the FAA which is what makes it a federal offense. Its the same as shooting at an airplane flying over your property. The only exception is if you feel your safety or the safety of someone on your property is in real and imminent danger of being harmed.

This doesn’t mean the drone operator is operating within the confines of the law however.

The regulations set by the FAA for recreational drone operators are as follows:

*The drone must be registered with the FAA if it weighs more than .55 lbs
*The registration sticker must be attached to the drone
*You must be a US citizen or permanent resident
*You must adhere to the safety guidelines

The safety guidelines set forth by the FAA are:

*Fly at or below 400 feet
*Keep your UAS (drone) within sight
*Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
*Never fly over groups of people
*Never fly over stadiums or sports events
*Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
*Never fly under the influence
*Be aware of airspace requirements
More info on the FAA’s regulations can be found here.

The state of Idaho has it’s own regulations which further enhance the drone operators limitations and address the issue of ‘peeping tom’ drones and trespassing on private property. Unfortunately they seem to have a lot of loop holes and failure to abide by the rules is a civil offense and will not incur any criminal charges. The state regulations can be found here.

Some cities have created ordinances further restricting drone operation within city limits, but as of yet the city of Lava Hot Springs does not have any restrictions of it’s own.

So what can you do if you witness a drone disregarding these rules or violating your privacy? Call the Bannock County Sheriffs Department @ (208) 236-7111 and try to record the drones activity to help with the investigation. If you can’t record, write down any details about the drone you can in order to help identify it. Refrain from pulling out your shotgun or you’ll likely be the one facing criminal charges.

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