An extremely crowded regulatory airspace with drones starting to be commonplace in the united kingdom, the law has been required to evolve and play catch-up

With drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) becoming commonplace in the united kingdom in both commercial and non-commercial applications, regulations has been necessary to evolve and take up catch-up.

Although drones have already been used by the military for quite a while, they are nowadays becoming increasingly attainable to amateur and professional users alike, because the term spans everything in technology from full-size, military-grade machinery to a glorified helicopter-type toy with a variety measured in tens of metres, which may be controlled from a cellular telephone.

Coupled with ever-smaller sized cameras, advancements in drone technology possess brought many benefits, which range from enabling safe inspection of previously inaccessible spots to assisting with fire and rescue. Drones happen to be also being applied for aerial photography, news insurance coverage, surveying and mapping and in agricultural adjustments, such as for example for crop monitoring. Various other uses include police, monitoring of wildlife, video recording production, private security solutions, and potentially even parcel delivery.

As drones built with cameras become more accessible, they present a fresh set of concerns for law-makers and regulators, who are trying to speedily create latest laws and direction to govern their work with and apply “old” regulations to the rapidly developing technology.

Set out here are a number of the key factors when operating a good drone or perhaps procuring the companies of a good drone operator in the united kingdom.

Work or play?

Under Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requirements, a distinction is drawn between drones for ‘professional use’ and drones for ‘domestic use’.

To use drones for ‘professional use’ CAA permission is likely to be required, minimum levels of third-party accident insurance should be set up, and the operator must comply with other safety requirements.

Amateur make use of drones is normally regulated, too. For instance, flying in congested areas, near people or property or beyond the visible line of site is normally prohibited, and latest rules coming could see drones that weigh between 7kg and 20kg needing an airworthiness evaluation to become managed within 150m of a congested or populated spot.

In terms of data privacy, UK privacy regulator the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in addition has been pragmatic in drawing a distinction between hobbyists and those that use drones for professional purposes. Its CCTV Code of Practice, which right now incorporates a section on unmanned aircraft, says that professional users must comply with data privacy rules, but that it’s very good practice for domestic users also to be familiar with the potential privacy intrusion which the application of drones can trigger to make certain they are being used in a responsible manner.

It is worth bearing in mind that the ICO has the capacity to issue on-the-location fines to anyone not operating their drone responsibly thus operators should tread with care.

Plan, document, review

The decision-making process concerning whether to accumulate personal data with a camera mounted on a drone (photographing an individual, for instance) and the underlying known reasons for such collection ought to be documented.

The ICO’s view is a privacy impact assessment (PIA) should first be conducted to determine what the potential privacy risks are of collecting personal data with a drone. This should be well balanced against the aims an operator seeks to attain, before personal data is collected.

The ICO can conduct audits of those who accumulate or process personal info, and it’ll typically want to see evidence a PIA has been carried out in the beginning.

If a decision was created to collect personal data through a drone, periodic reviews ought to be made to make certain that drone use continues to be the best solution to attain the aims without unduly intruding on individuals’ privacy.

Control what you capture

The ICO is concerned about ‘collateral intrusion’ through the utilization of drones, which means capturing images of individuals unnecessarily.

As finest practice measures, the ICO recommends (in its CCTV Code of Practice) that a drone operator should:

  • Ensure that the camcorder on the drone could be started up and off remotely, to limit recording to the precise function planned for and
  • Ensure software that uses selective focusing or perhaps ‘tilt-shift’ results is incorporated to minimise the chance of making clear images of people whose images are not designed to be captured.
  • Again, ignoring such assistance could have costly outcomes for drone operators.

Let people know very well what is happening

Generally speaking, a person’s consent is necessary before his / her personal data could be processed. Nevertheless, if, for instance, journalists are using a drone to film a protest attended by a large number of persons, would they be likely to seek consent out of every individual?

In such a scenario, the ICO recommends being impressive in the provision of information to those who may be filmed.

For example, it could be appropriate for a drone operator to wear high-visibility garments to identify the reality that he / she is operating a drone in the region, to place signs close to the site to make clear that overhead filming is occurring, and/or to immediate attendees to a privacy see on a website.

The main element is to find some way to make certain that the people being filmed get access to the information they require to make the best decision concerning whether they would like to take the risk of experiencing their image captured by an overhead drone.

Data privacy doesn’t give up when the drone lands

The personal info collected by a drone may very well be used in a way once it has landed, and an operator’s obligations with respect to that personal data do not end there.

In particular, the operator it’s still obliged to process the data collected based on the UK’s Data Safeguard Act 1998 (DPA), store it securely and retain it only for the minimum amount of time necessary, losing it or destroying it when no longer required.


The CAA has already prosecuted numerous drone operators in the united kingdom, including one for flying too near to rides at a style park and another for burning off control of their drone and narrowly missing a public bridge. New steps proposed from a civil aviation perspective will be on the horizon in the light of such events.

Given that drones could be deemed to get a military apply, despite their specification, drone operators should also consider whether an import or export licence is required before importing or exporting a drone. The licensing regime could catch a lot of drone operators out, possibly covering going for a drone to, declare, France from the united kingdom for a holiday.

As proven above, there are actually increasing privacy considerations where drones are being used in the united kingdom and drone operators should become aware of these concerns, together with knowing what the united kingdom watchdog considers acceptable make use of.

With UK data safety regulations set to be overhauled in the coming a few months, including an assessment of the fine amounts for breach of regulations, there is currently more onus on organisations to implement systems, controls and other steps to make sure their drone use is lawful.