Fear drones ‘scoping’ homes

Drones flying near Oamaru properties at night are setting off alarm bells for some residents.

Four drones were spotted in Springfield and Thousand Acre Rds, near Oamaru, in the past fortnight, flying above houses and garages.

Springfield Rd resident Leigh Thompson said he and his neighbours were worried the drones were "scoping" homes for burglaries.

Neighbours tracked them to Kakanui and others saw them outside their windows at night.

It raised concerns ranging from personal safety to drones being in the flight path of the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter coming from Dunedin.

"One [concern] has been safety and what the hell are they doing at that time of night. It’s just a privacy thing," Mr Thompson said.

His message to anyone flying drones above properties was clear — "don’t do it".

"It’s just concerning for the landowner because you don’t know why they’re doing it.

"If it’s commercial they would fly during the day and we’d get notification. They’re flying at strange times at night — it’s just odd."

The sightings were reported to police.

Sergeant Blair Wilkinson, of Oamaru, said he understood safety concerns regarding burglaries, but police had never had any cases where such a link had been confirmed.

"Flying over people’s property does cause concern and distress, particularly if there’s been dishonesty in the area people often link the two."

Civil Aviation rules state drone users need consent before flying above properties, and drones can only be flown at night in special circumstances.

Police did not enforce all the rules, but would work with the appropriate organisations, Sgt Wilkinson said.

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said it was a legal requirement for drone users to abide by the rules or they could face prosecution.

One person has been prosecuted for unsafe use this year, and 30 written warnings and infringement notices were issued last year, including five for flying drones above properties without consent.

kayla.hodge@odt.co.nz

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