Soaring use of drones heightens privacy and safety fears

13 March 2017

Growing use of recreational drones with cameras is causing concern to farmers and landowners over their privacy and the safety of people and livestock on private land.

Compulsory registration and insurance for drones, and a change to the Civil Aviation Act 1982 (CAA), which would mean recreational drone users would need to seek the landowners’ permission before flying over private land are among the calls from the CLA in response to a government consultation on safe drone use.

CLA solicitor Andrew Gillett said: “The use of drones both commercially and for recreation is growing fast. The sector has huge potential to benefit a wide range of industries, particularly in agriculture.

“However, it is vital that regulations keep pace with this change. Our members have concerns with recreational users flying surveillance drones of up to 20kg over their houses, gardens and fields which can cause a very real feeling of invasion of privacy. These drones can also worry livestock as well as having the potential to cause damage if the pilot loses control.”

There is currently no requirement for training or an assessment of capability for recreational drone users. If the drone is flown within the rules they are unlikely to be trespassing as a result of a statutory exemption for “aircraft”. Because of this, the CLA which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses says there are problems with a drone resolving the issue can be an uphill battle.

Mr Gillett added: “When you spot a drone flying over your property it can be difficult to determine whether it has onboard surveillance equipment. Then you need to find and identify the operator, who could be up to half a kilometre away from the drone. The uncertainty and huge costs involved in litigation, particularly with the complexity in the law of privacy is likely to be a deterrent to all but those with the deepest pockets. It is essential for the CAA 1982 to be updated to reflect modern drone technology and usage.”

The CLA’s response to the consultation can be read in full here.