One of the issues with drones as I’ve touched on before is their ability to invade a person’s privacy. Other than the FAA regulations, claims may be made against the drone operator under North Carolina law. In the last few years, North Carolina has passed statutes that restrict drones or “unmanned aircraft systems” N.C. Gen. § 15A-300.1 prohibits anyone from using a drone to conduct surveillance of a person or dwelling occupied by a person or private real property. There are a few exceptions, mostly for law enforcement purposes. In addition, the statute provides that anyone who takes a photo with a drone in violation of the law, and intends to publish or disseminate the photo, can recover $5000 per photograph, plus attorney’s fees and other relief, even without showing any actual damage.
In addition to this statute, the common law and long-established broad privacy protections in North Carolina may help against drones or other video surveillance. A claim of Intrusion into Seclusion provides that “one who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.” Restatement (2nd) Torts 652B. In North Carolina, this claims has been applied to various facts including physically invading a home or other private place, eavesdropping by wiretaps or microphones, peering into windows, persistent telephoning, unauthorized prying into a bank account and opening someone’s mail. Usually, observation of any private property that is visible from a public area would not be intrusion into seclusion. Taking pictures of someone in their front yard would probably not be actionable under this claim, while taking pictures of someone in their secluded back yard may be.
-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.