Portland company apologizes to Seattle woman for flying drone in front of her apartment window

Portland company apologizes to Seattle woman for flying drone in front of her apartment window »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A Portland company is apologizing to a Seattle woman for using drone with a camera outside her apartment window over the weekend. 

"It was really scary and just felt really violating,” said Lisa Pleiss. 

She lives on the 26th floor of a building in Downtown Seattle. She spotted the drone hovering outside of her window around 7:45 a.m. on Sunday. She notified the concierge at her building, and he called police.

Joe Vaughn was in Seattle on Sunday, manning the controls of the drone. He told KATU News he wasn’t spying on Pleiss or anyone else.

"It was not our intent to view anything other than the views from a 20-story office building that will be built across the street,” Vaughn explained.

A Seattle-based developer hired Vaughn’s company, Skyris Imaging, to use one of his drones equipped with cameras to take photos of the view for a new 20-story building.

“It raised right over the center of the block where the new development is happening. The camera spins 360 degrees. The vehicle stays completely still,” explained Vaughn.

"We went up 120 feet and then up to 300 feet and we stitched a panoramic a 360 degree view,” he said.

Vaughn said he heard about Pleiss’s concerns about his drone spying on her on Monday from news reports. He said he called Seattle Police right away to let them know what he was doing.

"It is not our intent to spy on anybody,” said Vaughn.

He conceded that the camera was likely pointed in the direction of Pleiss’s apartment, but insists none of the photos he took with the drone show any people inside any apartments in the area.

Vaughn has a his fleet of six drones he says he responsibly flies. His company has strict guidelines to never fly for a third party, over crowds, above 400 feet or beyond visual range. 

Those are the same rules the FAA has set for recreational drone users. The FAA has also banned drones for commercial use; they’re only supposed to be used for hobbies.

Vaughn said he talked to Pleiss on the phone on Tuesday. He apologized for startling her, and as a goodwill gesture, he’s sending her a panoramic photograph his drone took on Sunday morning while it was hovering outside of her building.