Seattle woman says drone seemed to be spying on her

A Seattle woman claimed an unmanned drone seemed to be acting like a peeping Tom outside her window Sunday, and now police are wondering if the drone’s pilots broke any laws.

The woman noticed an unmanned aerial drone floating outside her downtown apartment window Sunday morning, according to a Seattle Police Department news release.

Perturbed, the woman called the building concierge, who quickly notified police. The concierge went outside and found two men piloting the drone, the release said. The men, who were also carrying a tripod and video camera, packed up their gear and drove off, according to police.

“It was freaky,” the woman, Lisa Pleiss, told KIRO. “You don’t expect to be walking around indecent in your apartment and have this thing out there potentially recording you.” As of 3:15 p.m., Pleiss had not responded to the Los Angeles Times’ request for comment.


Det. Drew Fowler, a Seattle Police spokesman, told The Times that the incident raises some legal questions for the department. The men’s actions may not have been illegal if the drone was not equipped with a camera, or if the camera was pointed down at a public street, he said.

“It’s fairly common that technology has outpaced legislation and lawbreaking. At this point, there are no, that we have found yet, laws, at least for Seattle, as to how an unmanned [aerial vehicle] is to be operated in this city,” Fowler said. “If any laws were broken, they would lie in the realm of violation of privacy laws, but there is no ‘Hey, you can’t fly a UAV this way or that way.’”

Fowler said a law might have been broken if investigators could prove the drone had a camera that was aimed inside the apartment building, but the two pilots had not been located as of Wednesday.

The Seattle department had hoped to use drones to help with patrol initiatives after it got a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, Fowler told The Times.

Although the measure was approved by the city council, and officers began training to use the handful of drones the department was able to purchase, the initiative was scrapped after public disapproval began to mount, Fowler said.

Former Mayor Mike McGinn ultimately pulled the plug on the program in early 2013, according to the Seattle Times.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s attempt to launch its own drone program has also been stalled, until police come up with written guidelines.

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