Christmas drone sales boom sparks privacy concerns

11 December 2015

With consumer spending on drones expected to hit an all-time high this Christmas, the CLA is reaffirming its call for regulators to update the privacy rules associated with drone use.

It was reported that consumer drone sales rose by 24% ahead of the Christmas shopping rush in December 2014, with electronics dealer Maplin Direct reporting domestic drone sales of over 10,000 units over a 12-month period.

The organisation, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, is concerned that current drone-use regulations are not robust enough to ensure that privacy is maintained considering the growth in drone availability and popularity as gifts in recent years.

CLA President Ross Murray said: “We do not wish to spoil anyone’s fun over Christmas, especially as drones are a ‘must-have’ gift for many. But the growth in the availability of drones with high resolution cameras for consumer use, rather than industry, presents a significant risk to privacy and requires action.”

The European Aviation Safety Agency opened a consultation in July 2015 on the introduction of a regulatory framework for the operation of drones.

The CLA responded to the consultation through its sister organisation, the European Landowners’ Organization (ELO), arguing for further controls on privacy, data protection and future regulation to give good guidance on what circumstances individuals can expect privacy in relation to both residential properties and privately owned land.

Mr Murray said: “Earlier in the year we put forward workable proposals for regulation reform, and we will be pressing the relevant authorities in Europe and within the UK to address this issue.

“I urge those buying drones as gifts for friends and families to use common sense and follow the CLA’s top tips when operating them in order to ensure both privacy and public safety.”

CLA's 5 top tips for responsible drone operation:

  1. Fly safely and understand the law; you are legally responsible for every flight and could be prosecuted if found to be operating a drone in an unsafe manner.
  2. Respect the privacy of others and obtain permission before flying over privately owned land or property.
  3. Never fly within 50 metres of people or buildings.
  4. Animals can be easily frightened by drones which can cause injury to them and others.
  5. Use common sense when operating a drone: keep it in sight at all times and do not fly above 400 feet.