Local drone not for spying
By Julia Wade
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones have become a common sight in New Zealand skies over recent years, providing a birds-eye perspective of events, taking images for marketing land or for simple flying fun.
However with regards to personal privacy, the devices also raise suspicion around usage including one recent account of an Auckland mother and daughter claiming they were spied on by a hovering drone while sunbathing in their garden.
Due to the negative reports and irresponsibility of some UAV users, Mangawhai owner of Upshot Imagery and drone operator, Barry Lynch, says he has been verbally abused by local residents on several occasions.
“Ninety-nine percent of people are fine with the UAV’s, they’re more curious and like to watch, but I’ve had a few vicious complaints,” he says. “Two years ago I was working and a neighbor who lived down a long driveway from the property I was filming, sped up in his vehicle and threatened to ‘shoot the f*****g thing out of the sky’. Another incident was when a woman started yelling and swearing at me to leave even though the other neighbours had given their permission for the drone to take photos.”
A long-time Mangawhai resident, Lynch has been in the aerial photography business for nearly five years, capturing expansive images not possible by any other means, of the areas big events including the Domain Gala and annual Skate Jam as well as photos of properties for several real estate agencies. His work also plays an important part in helping Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society to maintain the estuary, by recording sand-dune planting, identifying underwater silt movement and potential sand build-up, crucial information for preventing future catastrophes similar to the dune breaches of the early 90’s.
A gifted amateur portrait artist, Lynch says he does all he can to operate professionally and with full understanding of Civil Aviation rules, including informing local police in advance of the location, dates and approximate times of operation, consulting with residents bordering the site locations including pet and animal safety, and always has an ‘observer’, usually a real estate agent, as a witness to his work. He has devised two complaint forms, one for people to lodge any objections to police as well as one for himself in the case of future abuse and says personal aspects captured in photos are removed.
“We can’t take things out of the photo that are supposed to be there like power lines or trees but cars, people walking by or in their gardens I’ll Photoshop out,” he says. “It’s something I choose to do, to erase anything that may be construed as offensive.”
Lynch has also travelled twice to Las Vegas to attend ‘Interdrone’, an international drone conference for updates on UVAS use, safety and future developments of aerial photography.
“I want to make sure I know what I’m doing and that I’m doing it correctly,” he says. “I enjoy operating the drone but I don’t want to upset people, I just want to keep doing my work.”
PICTURES: Examples of the impressive imagery Barry Lynch captures with his drone; the vibrancy and colour of the annual MAZ skate jam and tranquil beauty of Mangawhai’s harbour waters. Legally, the drones are allowed to only fly up to 120m (400ft) and sound similar to a hive of bees. “You can definitely hear them hovering,” Barry says.