Our government should do something about drones.

While Maine’s federal representatives drone on (pun intended) about impeachment and our state government spends us into oblivion, they should instead do something useful by outlawing drone surveillance.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

Currently, there is no law regulating unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveillance in Maine. Someone could fly a drone over your house, hover for hours watching you come and go, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Except, perhaps, blast it out of the sky with a well-aimed shotgun.

I never realized domestic drone surveillance was a concern until reading about a Gorham woman’s recent run-in with a loitering, camera-toting UAV. It’s a disturbing tale that should worry all liberty-loving people.

According to a story in the Jan. 25 Portland Press Herald, 43-year-old Mary Dunham was driving home one day when she noticed what looked like a star high above her vehicle. She looked closer and realized it was a drone boldly tracking her every move.

When she stopped at a stop sign, she told the Press Herald, the drone stopped. When she took a left or right turn, it, too, took a left or right.

Instead of driving straight home, she drove to a gas station and called police. The arriving officer saw the still-hovering drone but told Dunham there was little he could do since drone surveillance isn’t illegal.

Dunham went home with the drone still following overhead. The drone hovered over her house for 20 minutes and finally left.

But wait, there’s more, as the infomercial king Ron Popeil used to say while selling his famous knives and rotisseries.

When Dunham left the next day, the drone was back and followed her for 8 long miles as she drove to her brother’s house in neighboring Standish. She called police again and an officer came to witness the drone. And, again, police could do nothing.

What a spooky and frustrating story, eh?

A funny thing happened to me about an hour after reading the Press Herald article last weekend. I was out in my driveway and heard something motoring overhead. I stopped what I was doing and heard a steady, whizzing noise and then the rustle of tree limbs.

Yep, you guessed it, it was a drone!

The drone was camera-less however and was operated by the kids next door, who said they lost control of the small craft in the wind. It floated over to my property and got stuck high in a tree. I shared the Gorham woman’s story and advised them to stop flying a drone over neighboring homes if they wanted to keep good will in the neighborhood. I then told them I’d return the offending drone once it fell out of the high treetops since I’m sure it cost a lot of money.

I’d never seen a drone before that day. The irony of reading about drone surveillance and then hearing a drone overhead was flabbergasting. The experience brought home, however, how truly invasive and privacy-shattering drone surveillance is.

I feel sorry for Dunham, who will probably continue experiencing the unwanted surveillance. Other than advising her to get a gun and some sharpshooting lessons so she can take justice into her own hands, I urge Gorham’s state legislators to advance a bill banning such drone surveillance.

Maine should join the 41 states that have already enacted some sort of drone-related law. It’s a growing problem and one privacy-coveting Mainers shouldn’t have to tolerate.


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