From Chapter 1
(The whole chapter, read by the author with aerial footage of the setting, is available on YouTube. Link below)
A new sound had been added to the rustic ones that normally formed the backdrop to life in the Durham hills. Instead of the bleating of sheep, there was a whirring—and it came from the sky. The quad’s new video channel was up and running, and Raith, plus drone, was filming everything and everyone. He was, as he liked to put it, “Doing the rounds.”
“Doin’ my head in,” was how it seemed to Mike and, right then, there was a danger of that actually happening. Mike was responsible for nearly all the quad’s maintenance work. He was sitting astride a rooftop, replacing the flashing on one of Tunhead’s chimneys. Tunhead was the little hamlet where the quad lived. It was the seat of BOTWAC, the Beck On The Wear Arts Centre, and the video channel was designed, in part, to promote the artisans’ wares.
“Watch what you’re doin’ with that bloody thing!” Mike yelled from his perch.
“It’s alright, Mike. I’m in full control,” Raith yelled back.
“Not from where I am, you’re not! I thought you weren’t supposed to fly it over buildin’s!”
Raith made the drone whizz round in a circle and shouted, “Well Tunhead doesn’t really count as buildings, does it? I mean, twelve tiny houses, my studio and a disused church. It’s hardly buildings.”
“It felt like buildin’s when Ross and I were refurbishin’ it all, and it felt like buildin’s three years ago when I knocked the walls through to next door just to give you leg room.”
“That’s building, Mike, not buildings.”
Sometimes, there was no answer to Raith’s logic. Mike swore softly, sighed and decided to wait until tea-time, when all the men would be home together. They’d discuss Raith and his drone then. First things first. He continued repairing the chimney.
In Tees, Tyne and Wear Constabulary’s new Tyneside police station, another drone-related conversation had caused heated words that day. The woman making a complaint was angry.
“Look,” she said to the officer on the front counter, “this is the third time it’s happened in a fortnight. I ignored the first invasion of my privacy. The second time the blesséd thing was hovering overhead, I telephoned. I was told that someone would contact me. Nobody’s done so, and this morning it happened again. I want something doing. I feel I can’t go into my own garden and I’m bothered that whoever’s doing this is spying on me and my children. It’s horrible and it shouldn’t be allowed.”
The woman had good reason to feel harassed. She lived in what had once been the lodge of a large country estate. That is, she occupied the house that lay at one end of a long, tree-lined drive. The drive led, through parkland with trees and an ornamental lake, to a substantial eighteenth century property. On three occasions recently, the peace of the surroundings had been broken by the whirring of a drone. More importantly, she felt intimidated by the drone’s presence. As she said, she felt she was being spied on. Surely that was a crime?
It was, the official told her. At least two different offences connected with drone misuse might be invoked on the woman’s behalf, but, in a case like hers, invoking them was problematic. Even if an incident should happen again and a patrol car could reach her while the drone was still visible and airborne, there was little that officers could do. Firstly, they would need to locate and identify the flyer. If they felt that a harassment offence had been committed, they could instruct the flyer to land the drone. However, there was no power of seizure and, indeed, no power to even view the footage unless there was suspected terrorist activity—unlikely in this case. The woman had to be content with an apology and a promise that an officer would definitely come and visit her. In fact, a detective called a few days later, but not specifically because of her case. By then, the big country house had been burgled, and thousands of pounds of silver, porcelain and artwork had been stolen.