Flying drone with four wing-looking things out to the sides curving up

Drones have been seen buzzing above our heads at rallies, starting around the time of the 2016 election and during the aftermath of huge women’s and climate change marches in 2017. The sight of millions of people in the street from a drone’s-eye view can be amazing, and can provide proof of the magnitude of people who gather together for a cause.

As personal drones get smaller and cheaper, more people are having fun using them to shoot photos and video from interesting perspectives. Companies and individual entrepreneurs are springing up offering drone services taking aerial footage for advertising and even wedding coverage.

Drone owners are creating meetups, such as the Buckeye Aerial Drone User Group of Columbus Ohio, and other clubs, websites and events in central Ohio. Though getting a personal drone is a fun techy thing to do, it is important to check the laws before doing too much flying. is a resource outlining drone laws in Ohio and giving flying advice.

Drone flying

There are federal, state and local regulations for drone fliers, even policies on how to fly Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) over state parks. Obviously, the main focus of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is to regulate drone use based on proximity to airports. There’s even an FAA app called “B4UFLY” that “helps unmanned aircraft operators determine whether there are any restrictions or requirements in effect at the location where they want to fly.”

Drone fliers may take courses and receive a drone pilot license – local sites listed on are OSU and Columbus State Community College. SHARE THE AIR: A Workshop for Amateur Drone/UAS Enthusiasts is holding a free training at Medflight on August 23, at 2827 W. Dublin-Granville Road from 6:30-9pm. The workshop is limited to 50 people and those who complete it will receive a certificate and a gift. Drone U promotes how they connect drone fliers with experts and offers training (at $47 per month).

Drone spying

Drones are used to inspect roads and bridges that are hard to reach otherwise, to rescue lost people in the mountains, and to drop medicine and supplies in disaster zones – all noble and constructive purposes. Not so much the delivery of packages by Amazon – that’s just not good common sense. Small drones however, also pose a threat to our privacy. By the way, it is illegal to shoot down a drone that is hovering around your property.

The dark side of small drone use is for surveillance, particularly by law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the military. Activists have noted drone surveillance during demonstrations and protests, much like the more obvious plane flyovers and helicopter spying (so old school).

Ohio seems to have a bit going on with drone surveillance this year. reports that “Ohio plans to integrate drones into traffic management” with a 3-year study on the use of “unmanned aerial systems to communicate with smart vehicles and transportation infrastructure to monitor traffic and roadway conditions.” Drones will also be used in the future to monitor schools from above for safety reasons. 

In January a state advisory panel issued 14 recommendations on law enforcement use of unmanned aerial systems in Ohio. Three of the tenets are: “Agencies should get a search warrant before using their UAS in a location with ‘a reasonable expectation of privacy...Operators should take measures to ensure the drone is not capturing imagery of people who are not involved... and Drones should not be used for ‘unauthorized surveillance.’”

But the Dayton Daily News reported that the ACLU reacted by saying the recommendations are not laws and have no teeth. In particular, the ACLU warned that “the report did not address the issue of police agencies potentially weaponizing drones.” Police claim drone use will help them find missing persons and track criminal suspects. These projects sound laudable on the surface, but all drone spying technology has to be weighed with the possible ramifications on everyone’s privacy.

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