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Why people get arrested for flying drones

Smuggling, spying and crashing are just a few reasons.

Drone Racing Event Held On New York City's Governors Island Drew Angerer / Getty

As drones surge in popularity across the United States, it should come as no surprise that legal cases involving drones are also starting to accumulate.

From invading people’s privacy like a Peeping Tom, to flying over prisons to drop cellphones, to recklessly crashing into the sides of buildings, drone operators don’t always follow the rules.

A report by the Center for the Study of the Drone has a new survey analyzing cases in recent years of when drones have had run-ins with the law. Looking at cases that have received some level of news coverage, the researchers found a few categories that legal incidents involving drones typically fall into.

Here are a few examples:

One thing that comes up again and again in the legal cases involving drones: Law enforcement has difficulty finding operators piloting remote aircraft. Michael Huerta, the chief of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, said at an FAA symposium in March that the agency is creating a new rulemaking committee that will work to create a way to remotely identify and track drones in flight.

DJI, the world’s leading consumer drone manufacturer, proposed its own system in March for identifying the operator of a drone that would require each drone to transmit its location and registration or identification number. Then, with a receiver, law enforcement could ID the drone and link it to the owner’s registration information.

Almost 800,000 drone owners have registered with the FAA since sign-ups began in December 2015.

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