Connecticut Homeowners Debate Response to Drone Flyovers

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Someone said shoot it down with a BB gun.

Another said a paint-ball gun would work better.

A third person said to blast it out of the air with a power-washer.

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Other suggestions ranged from slingshot to shotgun.

They all came in response to a Stamford man’s post on a social media site asking what to do when a drone hovers over your home.

“Has anyone else had that experience?” the man wrote on NextDoor. “What an invasion of privacy!” 

He described how he was sitting by his pool when the drone appeared and repeatedly circled his property.

His post drew 238 responses in three days.

Responders used the same words over and over: “Scary.” “Creepy.” “Disturbing.” “It makes me nervous.” “It’s an invasion of privacy and makes me angry.”

Such complaints are cropping up nationwide as the number of drones in the nation’s airspace continues to grow. 

Federal Aviation Administration data shows that 865,505 drones are now registered in the United States, 62 percent for recreational use. Most of the remainder are registered by commercial users including media, insurance and construction companies, law enforcement, and photography and other services.

Though a hovering drone is disconcerting, it is not illegal for them to fly over homes in most areas. The airspace above a home is under the jurisdiction of the FAA, which classifies drones as aircraft. Under federal law, destroying an aircraft is a crime.

Anyone who shot down a drone would also be subject to municipal laws governing discharge of a firearm, destruction of property, reckless endangerment caused by falling debris and other possible crimes.

Homeowners feel the law protects drone operators, but not them. Many social media commenters said they believe drone flyers may be photographing their homes in preparation to rob them, or that drones are operated by voyeurs.

Some said the drone described by the Stamford man was operated by a group that has been seen entering backyards in the area when homeowners aren’t there and swimming in their pools.

Those contacted who had an experience with a drone did not want to be quoted, saying their privacy is already compromised.

Their frustration is evident in their responses.

Get your own attack drone and capture it, a Westchester County, N.Y., woman wrote to the Stamford man.

Put up a sign telling the drone operator to get lost or get shot down, a Stamford woman wrote.

A Norwalk man took a tempered approach, writing, “Take a video of it and file a complaint with the police.”

That’s the thing to do, said Crystal Essiaw of the FAA’s Office of Communications.

“The FAA frequently partners with law enforcement agencies and first responders throughout the nation to educate the public about drone safety,” Essiaw said. “When criminal activity is suspected, we work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners by providing them assistance with their investigations and prosecutions.”

Homeowners can’t look up drone flights because they do not appear on radar or community flight-tracking systems, she said. 

“People can report what they believe are unsafe drone operations to the local FAA safety office,” Essiaw said. “They should report privacy concerns to local police.” 

Michael Edreich, aviation safety inspector with the FAA’s Bradley Flight Standards District Office in Enfield, said his office handles airspace and other regulatory violations, and police handle suspected harassment. People may email the FAA at 7-AEA-BDL-FSDO@faa.gov.

“Call police so they can find the operator,” Edreich said. “If we can’t find the operator, it’s hard to do anything.”

Recreational flyers must learn the rules and pass a safety test. They must register any drone that weighs more than .55 of a pound. Commercial flyers must become certified remote pilots and register their drones.

Registered drones have stickers showing their number, but “unless you have a really good pair of binoculars, it would be really hard to read it,” Edreich said.

So homeowners are left to wonder who’s behind the electronic eyes. Some recounted their stories on social media.

A Stamford man posted that he called police after a drone kept appearing over his fenced backyard while his children were playing. Police identified and confronted the operator, and the drone has been gone ever since, the man said.

A Stamford woman wrote that a drone was “hovering outside my sliding doors taking a look in my living room.” A Greenwich woman wrote that she became so angry when a drone showed up outside her daughter’s bedroom window that she squirted it with a hose.

Speculation about who is flying drones in Stamford ran to the city, which is in the middle of a required property revaluation. 

It’s not the city, Tax Assessor Greg Stackpole said.

“The consultant hired to perform the property revaluation is not using drones,” Stackpole said.

Others speculated that the drones are operated by realtors preparing advertising materials for homes going on the market.

That would happen only at homes for sale, said Roxanna Bajra, president of the Stamford Board of Realtors.

“The photography companies are obligated to follow the rules,” Bajra said.

Hicham Bensaoui, CEO of Realty Plans, a Stamford photography service, said people selling their homes should notify their neighbors when they know a drone is coming.

“We usually go 30 to 50 feet above a home. We can go higher if we need to capture a water view or something like that, but the limit for drones by law is 400 feet,” Bensaoui said. 

Commercial flyers have many appointments a day, and go from one to the next as quickly as they can, he said.

“We don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. We understand that having a drone around is like having someone in your house who you don’t know,” Bensaoui said. “The professionals are not hovering around houses. It’s usually someone with a personal drone who lives in the area.”

But, if homeowners are wary, they are not notifying police, Stamford Capt. Scott Duckworth said. 

“We hardly ever get calls about drones,” Duckworth said.

A search of police records turned up only 13 calls from April of 2021 until now, and none so far in 2022, Duckworth said.

“Three calls were to the fire department – people saying their drone went into a tree or landed on top of a building and they needed help retrieving it. One turned out to be a real estate agent taking photos of a house that was for sale,” Duckworth said. “If someone has a drone spying on them, if we find a violation of a local ordinance or a state law, we can take action.”

It may be that homeowners aren’t sure what to do about drones that disappear as quickly as they appear. But drones create a deep sense of unease.

A Greenwich woman wrote on social media that she thinks the day is coming when “some very distrubed and evil weirdos will be able to arm drones and start shooting people.”

In an apparent reference to mass shootings in public places, the woman wrote, “As it is already, we’re in danger wherever we go … (we) would like to feel assured that we’re safe, at least, in our own homes.”

“You can’t even enjoy your own backyard,” a Stamford woman wrote. “How sad … Peeping Tom in the air.”


Angela Carella

For 36 years prior to joining the Connecticut Examiner, Angela Carella was a beat reporter, investigative reporter, editor and columnist for the Stamford Advocate. Carella reports on Stamford and Fairfield County. T: 203 722 6811.

a.carella@ctexaminer.com