By Deanna Boyd, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
MANSFIELD, Texas — Karen Meister’s suspicions soared sky-high Monday after she arrived at her Mansfield home and found a flier on her front door about a missing drone.
“It looks like a lost-dog flier, but instead of a picture of a cute little puppy, it has a picture of a four-armed drone with a video camera on the bottom of it,” said Meister, 52. “It just freaked me out.”
Fearing someone was spying on her, Meister contacted officials — from the police to the mayor’s office to her state representative — to find out the legalities of using a drone in a neighborhood.
She also gave a piece of her mind to the drone’s owner in an exchange of text messages Tuesday.
Meister: “I did not find your ‘toy.’ But am quite disturbed that you think it is lost in my yard. Can assure you that if such object IS indeed found on my property … it would be destroyed. How dare you.”
Drone’s owner: “We were flying in the neighborhood and saw it land in that area. Every house with a back yard facing country club received a flyer. And I also use this 3,000 dollar piece of equipment for work. I simply would like it back and would be more than happy to give a reward. I’m sorry to bother you.”
Meister: “So the police say it’s OK for you to fly your drone and video my yard and in my windows … waiting on what mayor and state rep says. I cannot imagine what business you have doing this, but yet … I AM BOTHERED … perving in backyards. Shame on you. Have your boss or parent call me.”
Drone’s owner: “I would be more than happy to have my parent contact you. I fly way above houses. There was a prop failure and it (fell). I have no intention of ‘perving’ backyards. I have quotes from FAA regs authorizing use in the manner I am using it. If you would like footage from a previous flight or project so you may see EXACTLY how far from the houses I am that can be provided.”
That same day, the drone owner’s father — a Dallas police officer — called Meister to assure her that his son is not a “perv” but rather a Mansfield High School senior doing video projects with the hope of getting into Texas A&M University.
Chris Shephard, the 18-year-old aspiring filmmaker, told the Star-Telegram that he had saved up for months to buy the drone and attached a GoPro camera to it so he could make films. He said he uplinked the camera to a television and was showing friends how it worked Sunday when he lost it in a residential area off Country Club Drive in northeast Mansfield.
“I think a propeller came loose or something,” he said. “It just pretty much fell out of the sky.”
Shephard said he and his friends searched for the drone for about two hours. He then made fliers with a note asking people to check their back yards and distributed them to 20 or 30 houses.
Shephard said he saw a missed call from Meister on his cell phone Monday and was hoping she had found the drone. When she lashed out at him the next day via text message, he said, he couldn’t be mad.
“I kind of figured out what she thought was going on,” Shephard said. “I just had a picture of it and asked people to check their back yards. I could tell where somebody might be thinking I was hovering over their back yard.
“I still didn’t know if she had it or not,” he said. “I was more worried that she was going to destroy it.”
He still hasn’t found the drone.
Shephard said he did research when buying the drone to make sure he obeyed the law.
Under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, model aircraft should fly below 400 feet above the ground and maintain a sufficient distance from populated areas and full-scale aircraft.
“I know I wasn’t doing anything illegal,” Shephard said. “I’m sure it’s not good for the drone community to have it thrown out there that people are looking through windows.”
Meister, who acknowledges that she doesn’t even use Facebook and jokes that she’s a dinosaur, said she feels bad for calling the teen a “perv” but thinks her concern was justified.
“I don’t know how to feel about it. I want kids to do well and follow their passions and dreams,” Meister said. “On the other hand, I’m like, ‘This is weird.’”
She said she ended her conversation with the teen’s father on amicable terms.
“I thanked him and told him I’m satisfied with his explanation. Please pass my apologies to his son. I’m proud of them for raising a smart kid,” Meister said. “But on the other hand, you’ve got to realize people are not going to be very pleased with these things dropping down.”
AFP Photo/Saul Loeb