Will Private Investigators Continue to be Able to Use Drones?

The best private investigators adapt to use the latest technology in their pursuit of the truth, and drones have proven to be a godsend for many investigators. Rather than put themselves in a dangerous situation, these adaptive PIs can send drones overhead to check out what is going on.

Drones have proven to be a gold mine for everything from catching cheating spouses to identifying insurance fraud. But can PIs continue to use them? As privacy concerns mount, many states are regulating the use of drones—potentially threatening their use by these investigators.

For instance, North Carolina made it illegal to use a drone to observe a person or private property. Tennessee made it a misdemeanor to use drones for the surveillance of hunters or fisherman.

In early March 2015, California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson introduced a bill that would make it illegal for drones to fly over private property. Legally, they would be trespassers.

The private use of drones is being regulated at the federal level, too. The Federal Aviation Administration announced new regulations for the use of drones. They must be less than 55 pounds and visible to their operators at all times.

While some PIs such as Chris Wright of Anaheim, California specialize in using drones, others steer clear of them because of privacy issues. Ms. Wright frequently does not have to worry about privacy issues, because she helps churches and schools monitor their own property.

Given the concern of privacy advocates in the US, it is likely that drones will be more tightly regulated at the federal level. If so, PIs could lose a highly valuable tool in their arsenal.

Another problem with using drones is that people who notice them have been known to shoot them down, thus destroying these expensive high-tech tools.