Following on from the Newsnight article, I was interviewed by Phil Gayle on BBC Radio Oxford the following morning. It was only a short interview but the whole of the Breakfast Show was dedicated to this issue of Drones.
Phil Galye, the Presenter was attempting to stir the listeners up into an anti-drone movement, citing 'privacy issues' and 'Not in my back yard' (NIMBY) concerns. 'What if I were sunbathing in my garden at the same time as you were photographing my neighbour's house?' was one question for example. Are these drones going to peer into bedroom windows?
I only had 2-3 minutes for the whole interview, which wasn't adequate to put the points that I needed across, so here's my ideal interview transcript.
Me: Good Morning Phil.
PG: So, this drone you fly. What is it used for?
Me: I photograph all sorts of things, anything where an elevated view would enhance the subject. I've photographed private properties as Anniversary presents and also for Estate Agents to help sell it. I photograph photogenic Hotels and Penthouse views from properties that are yet to be built. I've even shot a scrapyard.
PG: So, if I was sunbathing and you were filming next door, would I be in the photo or would you crop me out. It seems a bit of an invasion of privacy.
Me: The chances are that you would be in the photo if I was to shoot the back garden, but usually I'm only shooting the front. In my experience, if I was shooting the back garden you would not fail to notice me and my Client, your neighbour would also alert you. More often than not you'd be round to see the craft. Most people I meet are fascinated by it and I have yet to meet someone concerned about it.
PG: What if I were in my bedroom doing my usual naked exercises - or worse and failed to spot you?
Me: Have you ever tried to look in a neighbours window? - you don't need to answer that - The distance, angles and reflections make it pretty unlikely that anything could see inside and, even then, assuming that the curtains were open, the chances of catching you seem pretty slim. The cameras that I use are pretty limited due to weight constraints and I am there for professional purposes. If someone wanted to snoop, they would be better off up a distant tree with a camera with a decent zoom than hovering a pretty obvious drone outside your window.
I test my drone and cameras out in my garden and the pictures I take of the house do not show inside. Too many reflections.
PG: What does the law say about all this snooping?
Me: With a couple of exceptions, anyone with a camera is allowed to photograph anyone else in a public place. Or a private place from a public place. Or from a private place with the owner's permission. Just because the camera is attached to the Drone doesn't make the law any different, in fact we have more restrictions because of where we are and are not allowed to fly. There are many times more cameras and CCTV equipment snooping on us that the handful of drones that are in existence. You can get disguised cameras the size of cigarette packets transmitting images back to base. That is scarier.
We are professionals doing a professional job and, like all professions, there may be a darker side but the cost of the equipment and the licencing means that you need to be pretty determined to use it for nefarious purposes.
PG: That seems reassuring. Andy Crowhurst, owner of Overshoot Photos, thank you.