Drone Privacy: Considerations When Using Your UAV

Privacy and drones

Most people who have their reservations about drones do so because they’re worried about their privacy. Rightly so! The idea that anyone can fly a drone with a camera can be scary – but we’re all in favour of responsible drone piloting. While rules on privacy vary from country to country, there are a few things to consider when flying your drone to help put the naysayers at ease and improve your own drone experiences…

The Law

The legal definition of privacy when it comes to drone flight varies widely between countries and even states. For example, the UK doesn’t have a specific privacy law (seems strange, right?). However, aspects of multiple other legislative rules can be applied in the concept of privacy instead. For example, if you take a picture of a person in a public place, you are allowed to use that image as you wish – but if they’re sunbathing in their backyard, they have an ‘expectation of privacy’ and you could be in trouble under laws regarding voyeurism. Many elements of privacy come under the Human Rights Act 1998, whereby every individual has a ‘right to a private and family life’ (Article 8).

It’s important that wherever you’re flying your drone, you’re aware of the actual law which may affect your responsibilities when it comes to flying a drone and other people’s privacy.

You should be especially aware of the possibility of filming (whether intentionally or not) protected buildings and areas without permission. For example if you fly near a school with a particularly high end camera, you may accidentally be able to record recognisable images of children in a playground. This is Not OK.

<<< Find out more about drone laws >>>

Best Practice

Here’s where common sense prevails: just imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes and decide if you’d be happy to have your picture taken or not.

If you’re flying your drone in a public space, it’s easy to assume the permission of anyone present. However, if you’re flying relatively low (within legal limits) or will be filming an event that focuses on specific people, it’s polite to let these people know they are being recorded. At large events this may not be possible, but if you’re the official drone pilot for the event it’s ideal to put clear signs up to let people know they’re being recorded.

It’s a good idea not to live stream images to the internet. There are several reasons for this, but mostly because you might capture something that a person doesn’t want on the internet – we’ll take you back to the sunbathing-in-the-back-garden example again. Record your footage and review it before you post online.

Data Protection

When you fly a drone for commercial purposes, you could need to adhere to data protection laws of the country in which you’re flying.

For example, any images captured of people (even at a private event) where permission has not been granted may need to be destroyed. On the flip side, images may need to be kept according to data protection rules for future reference – for example, if you’re capturing footage for legal reasons during an insurance claim.

Common Sense

Most of the time, privacy rights are common sense, and we trust that you’re smart! However, if you’re flying in an unfamiliar place, if you make sure you’re keeping within the law you’re going to be fine. For example, check a map to ensure you’re not flying within restricted zones such as near places of worship or schools – it’ll make things simpler in the long run!

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