Olathe woman working to create ‘no drone zones’ over private property

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OLATHE, Kan. -- An Olathe woman says the invasion of her family’s privacy has her working to put a new state law on the books. Her effort comes after she says her neighbor refused to stop intruding on private moments with his drone.

On Thursday she’ll give testimony before Kansas lawmakers for a bill she hopes will create enough of a buffer around her home to give her family peace of mind.

“At first it was just annoying,” said homeowner LeEtta Felter. "He’d hover over us when we were playing with dogs, or gardening or working in the yard.”

“We’re swimming out there and he was hovering over the pool,” Felter continued.

She took cellphone video of a drone she says her neighbor has continued to fly over her home, despite requests for him to stop.

“The final straw was my 16-year-old daughter was doing dishes and looked up and the drone was outside of the window,” said Felter.

There’s no city ordinance, and no state law to keep him from doing so. Now Felter aims to change that. She’ll give testimony before a senate committee for a bill that would create a 350-foot privacy buffer starting at ground level, over private property.

"My neighbor legally now can fly and hover over my pool, but he cannot take his dirt bike and ride in my front yard. So I don’t see why there’s a difference there,” said Felter.

With the exception of law enforcement, government agencies, or those with rights to the property, drone operators could not fly over properties without permission. Some say the plan leaves gray area.

"Does that leave that 50-foot block of airspace to still fly?” asked Casey Adams, CEO of Kansas City Drone Company.

He says lawmakers might run into challenges getting the bill signed into law. The proposed buffer zone still leaves about 50-feet of airspace a drone can fly before violating the 400-foot FAA restriction.

“It’s still there. It’s still able to take pictures of your car, or the top of your house or whatever else, and if there’s a malfunction, it’s still over your house. It could still come down over your roof’,” said Adams.

While he can sympathize with concerns from people who don’t want drove near their property, he hopes a few bad apples won’t spoil fun, and innovation for all drone users.

“I could see why that would be irritating. What I don’t want is a commercial or a first responder application to be limited because of people like that who can’t fly responsibly. As long as they have a way to work with communities and people that’d be great,” said Adams.

Felter says she knows she has an uphill fight, but welcomes the challenge, and is open to hearing all sides of the argument.

“We need to bring all parties to the table and hear all of their thoughts, and input,” said Felter.

She says she’s not opposed to the use of drones, and but says there should be restrictions in place when operators start to violate the privacy of others.