Growing Use Of Drones In Ohio Raises Privacy, Safety Concerns

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UPDATED: Thursday May 1, 2014 11:50 PM

Drones come in all shapes and sizes.

These high-tech model airplanes are getting a lot of attention, not only because of what they can do, but because of what some don't want them to do.

Imagine a day when tiny machines cover the skies over Ohio. The reality is closer than you think.

They are unmanned aerial vehicles that are commonly known as drones.

“It's completely safe. I'm doing it hands free, there's no way for me to crash it or fly into somebody,” says hobbyist Matthew Snider. “It's a stress reliever for me.”

Snider says it's the closest thing to flying a real plane without sitting in a cockpit. He owns more than 10 drones, including one with a laser pointer and spotlight. He says he uses it for security, to document hunters who come on his parents’ 350-acre property.

“If I see someone on the land at night, I can turn on my camera; I can videotape the person at night. I have a high intensity laser and pin point them,” he adds.

Nine states have laws that regulate the use of drones, either by private citizens or law enforcement. Ohio is not one of them.

In Ohio, for as little as a few dollars, anyone can buy and fly one. No training is required.

One hobby store told 10TV that it sells 400 drones a month.

“We spend hours per customer here in the store, making sure they understand every mode (and) what can go wrong,” said Kyle Belman, Cyclone Hobbies.

And when something does go wrong, the outcomes are frightening. On the internet you can find a wedding photographer crashing his drone into a bride and groom and another crashing into a grandstand crowded with people.

The dawn of the drone is causing headaches for the Federal Aviation Administration which controls the nation’s airspace.

Because the FAA has classified drones as aircraft, it doesn't want them used for commercial purposes.  The rules state drones must be flown in view, no higher than 400-feet. You're not supposed to fly them over populated areas.

That's not stopping people like Bernie Fernandez in Columbus.

“You can capture about anything,” said Fernandez.

His drone has flown over the Easton Town Center, over crowds outside Nationwide Arena, and even the Horseshoe (Ohio Stadium).

Fernandez says he also helps commercial businesses improve their websites by flying over and shooting video of their property. But he won't be flying near Port Columbus anytime soon.

“We were too close to the airport and several black SUV's rolled up and said bring it down,” said Fernandez.

He's even caught some grief in his own neighborhood.

“Like a guy says to me… if you fly it over my property I'm shooting it down"

As the price and size of drones go down - more and more people will end up having them. That’s raising concerns about privacy and safety. Already, two Ohio lawmakers have introduced legislation that would silence them.

“I just want to make sure that we have something in place to make certain that if drones will be used for residents in Ohio that there is some guidelines,” Ohio state Rep. Anthony Davitas.

Devitas is not concerned about the use for hobbyists, but he is concerned about their use in police work.

“If someone is using this to invade someone's privacy - that has to be addressed as well,” says Davitas.

The Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association is fighting that bill and one other.

“We don't want to see any legislation that would put us in a difficult position when we have evidence that could be valuable from a drone,” says OPAA Executive Director John Murphy.

Until any legislation is passed, the sky's the limit for the drones, machines that some see as a menace and others view as the future of aviation.

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