"They tried to stop us from taking pictures and we said, 'You know what? Release the drone,' " a paparazzo said

By Patrick Gomez
Updated August 07, 2014 02:15 PM
Credit: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg/Getty

Drones. They’re not just for warfare anymore.

From delivering packages to capturing a fireworks show from the inside, unmanned aerial vehicles have come to be used well beyond the military.

But are they now being deployed by paparazzi to sneak photographs of celebrities like Miley Cyrus?

“Drone Pap wtf,” the “Wrecking Ball” singer posted on Instagram recently, along with a video of what appears to be a drone flying overhead.

If the pop star did indeed spot a drone sent by paparazzi, it wouldn’t be the first such incident.

“They tried to stop us from taking pictures and we said, ‘You know what? Release the drone,’ ” one paparazzo said in a video after being blocked from getting footage of Selena Gomez at a photo shoot in March. “When there is a lot of fandemonium and people are trying to block us, we’ll send a drone up and get great footage It’s going to be big.”

That prospect is exactly what has California state senator Alex Padilla calling for legislation that would restrict the use of drones.

“We have enough paparazzi issues as it is,” the former Los Angeles City Council member tells PEOPLE. “We certainly don’t need drones with cameras or video recorders hovering over nightclubs, restaurants or the streets of L.A.”

Sen. Padilla is currently spearheading a bill in the California State Senate that would limit the use of drones. He hopes celebs lend their support to it in the same way Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner and Kristen Bell did in the fight to protect children from paparazzi and Steven Tyler did to advocate for privacy in Hawaii.

But those who oppose the proposed restrictions say many existing laws protect people’s right to privacy.

“If you trespass, harass or stalk someone, you can be criminally charged or you can be sued. There are laws that already protect people and celebrities from having those things happen,” says Mickey Osterreicher, who was a photojournalist before becoming a lawyer representing the National Press Photographers Association. “It’s unfortunate that the California legislators feel the need to pander to their celebrity constituents. The bottom line is that it is going to limit the ability to gather news. It’s a First Amendment issue, and we don’t need any more laws that infringe on First Amendment rights.”

Osterreicher says the Federal Aviation Administration has been tasked with regulating the use of drones but the rules are currently “in limbo” as “unfortunately they are behind schedule.”

And any eventual rulings by the FAA can impact non-celebrities as well.

“The federal government has made it policy to say that by 2020 we want tens of thousands of these in U.S. airspace,” says Sen. Padilla. “I am fearful that we will go too far down that road without providing protections for people first.”

Not that everyone is as concerned.

“When the [first portable] camera was invented in the late 1800s, there was the same cry of how the right to privacy was gone,” says Osterreicher. “But we developed privacy laws and we’ve got those in place now. The world didn’t come to an end.”

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