Q: My husband and I have a backyard pool concealed by a privacy fence. That means I can dress less when I suntan. But what if a drone with a camera flies over our backyard? Is that legal? Do we own some of the airspace over our house, and, if so, how high? Is the use of such drones in our personal airspace limited to groups such as law enforcement and the news media?
Eileen Parker, Brooklyn Park, Minn.
A: The drone, a remotely piloted flying device that can make anyone into a member of the paparazzi, has gotten ahead of the law. If anyone flew a camera-equipped drone over your yard, there’s not much you could do about it.
Your best hope would be to write down the drone operator’s federal registration number (which by law must be displayed on the drone), which would allow the operator to be traced. But it’s unclear whether you could sue the operator for creating a “private nuisance” under state law. (A few states, including California and Wisconsin, have new laws regulating drone photography.)
It seems inevitable that such privacy issues will arise because drones are relatively cheap. A camera-equipped drone typically costs $60 to several hundred dollars at an electronics store, and it’s estimated that nearly 1 million consumer drones were sold in the U.S. last holiday season.
It’s far from clear what limits will eventually be placed on drone overflight of private property. While you theoretically own the airspace above your home, it remains to be seen how much control you actually have over it. Above 500 feet, where traditional aircraft can legally fly, the air is controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration. To deal with drones, the FAA now says it controls the air down to the ground, but thus far has issued only a couple of drone rules: People who fly drones weighing up to 55 pounds must register with the agency, and the drones must be flown below an altitude of 400 feet and away from restricted areas such as airports.
While the FAA is said to be considering privacy rules that govern where drones can go, none have been announced.
Another federal agency, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, has published a list of “best practices” for drone operators – such as avoiding private property and places where people have “a reasonable expectation of privacy” – but that list wouldn’t have the force of law. (See tinyurl.com/hr2zq72.)
Q: I’ve been creating family videos with the MacIntosh iMovie (version 9.0.9) software for several years. But I can’t play those movies on a Blu-ray player or a friend’s PC. How can I format my iMovie videos so that they will play on other devices?
Allen Ebel, Eau Claire, Wis.
A: The iMovie file format isn’t compatible with the video DVD format used by a Blu-ray player or a PC DVD drive. Because Apple has discontinued its iDVD software, which could convert iMovie files to a DVD-compatible format, you will need to try a non-Apple program such as Wondershare DVD Creator for Mac (see “How to Burn iMovie 10 to DVD without iDVD” at tinyurl.com/z436rre), Burn (see tinyurl.com/j7kq9a8) or Aimersoft DVD Creator for Mac (see tinyurl.com/gvs6fjg).