But are they really? A few weeks ago I was visiting my father-in-law in Colorado. His condo is perched right on the edge of a sheer drop off that is covered with thorns and prickly bushes. Past the 100 ft. drop is an amazing view, the likes of which you would only dream of in a movie. And I immediately knew I had to unpack my drone and fly over it! I got up into the air, terrified of losing signal and losing my drone into the vast expanse of trees down below. I decided before hand that this would be a short flight.
Before flying I vaguely recalled my father-in-law mentioning a neighbor….and she was crazy or something. Well on the way into my final pass, this crazy neighbor is alerted to my presence by her little yappy dog. I slightly notice her moving around on her balcony with my peripheral vision, trying to stay glued to my ground station screen. She then noticed me and yells “are you flying that thing?”. I’m trying to bring this drone in while shes quizzing me, “yes ma’am”. “Ugh I though someone was trying to come spy on me again, there is always someone trying to spy on me with those things!”. I managed to bring the drone down without breaking anything, though it was a sloppy landing, then I look over at her…wondering why she thought people were spying on her…maybe the 25 year old doctors wife two houses down…but not this lady. She’s just super paranoid.
The truth about the situation is that almost everyone flying a drone is using a 5.8 Ghz video transmitter at 50 watts(if they are complying with FCC regulations) which is attached to a HD video camera, set up to display TV-out. While the camera it’s self IS recording HD video, the TV-out is being sent to the 5.8 Ghz video transmitter then to a video receiver on the ground and finally displayed on (normally) an 8 inch or similar size screen. The video is received in somewhat grainy standard definition with occasional blips in the connection.
I have a small 8 inch screen that I use for convenience, but I also have the luxury of a 19 inch screen that I pulled from a laptop computer and wired it up to a controller board which makes it act as a TV so I can use A/V cables from my transmitter. Even on my 19 inch screen the picture is not clear enough to search out a small target from long distance and by the time I was close enough to be able to track someone, they would surely spot it, if they didn’t hear it first.
HD live video is just now becoming feasible through $500+ video systems and it won’t become more streamline until prices drop significantly. So in short drones likely aren’t spying on you. The amount of money people put into this hobby isn’t so they can fly around creeping on people. I mean I didn’t spend an ungodly amount of money on my drones so I could spy on people. I’ve been enthralled with flight ever since I was a small child and this is the closest I will get, shy of getting a pilots license. However if drones ARE spying on you, it’s probably the government. ‘Cause those guys are spying on everyone, maybe even through your webcam as you’re reading this?!