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Drones and illegal surveillance; how to protect yourself and your business

Last updated on

June 20, 2018


    Unmanned, unrestricted, cheap and widely accessible drones are increasingly becoming a threat to the privacy and confidentiality of businesses, individuals and the wider public.

    Small and agile enough to go anywhere once airborne. Fences, guards and other physical security measures can be ineffective in preventing a drone being armed to carry out spying and illegal surveillance operations.

    Drones have become increasingly popular and increasingly advanced. Governments and regulators are only just catching up to introduce laws and rules to prevent such devices being used for unethical reasons.

    Much of the freely available footage of drones capturing stunning footage from beautiful locations is unfortunately likely to have been filmed illegally.

    UK laws, as regulated by the Civil Aviation authority, decree that drones must be flown no higher than 120 metres and be kept at least 50 metres away from people and private property. Devices must also be kept at least 50 metres from crowds and built-up areas.

    Mavic Air

    What rights do individuals have to privacy?

    Data Protection laws protect an individual’s information by providing rights to privacy of personal data. A drone with a camera may capture personally identifiable information. For example, images of individuals, houses, cars, driving licence plates, all of which is defined as personal data.

    Requirements regarding how such data should be collected, stored and used can be found in data protection laws and apply to images collected by drones.

    The Human Rights Act 1998 also provides individuals with a right to privacy and the use of drones may infringe such rights if they are used intrusively. Drones can also cause annoyance and social disturbance to others which may breach laws.

    Laws around harassment also apply and may differ in application depending on whether the target of the drone activity is at home, at a private location such as a business address, or in a public place.

    Zenmuse XT2

    What recourse do you have if you’re subject to a drone invading your privacy?

    Courts will determine and interpret privacy laws in relation to drone use and will rule on what is legal or illegal, and the UK government continues to consult on implementing new rules to regulate the use of airborne devices.

    The simplest recourse to stopping the use of a drone to invade your privacy may be to approach the individual operating it if you can locate them. Rules around the use of unmanned flying devices insist that the operator must keep their drone in sight.

    If you do conclude that you have a legitimate complaint to make about a drone breaching confidentiality and privacy, then you should document your concern. Record the exact time and date of any incidents. If you can, take down the make and model and take a picture if possible.

    The local police or the Civil Aviation Authority are the appropriate bodies to refer a complaint to. Alternatively, you may wish to seek further legal advice from a solicitor.

    It’s almost never going to be legal for you to shoot down a drone near your property. Even if you suspect it’s snooping on you.

    Prevention is likely to be better than a cure

    With the laws still evolving to regulate the use of drones, and without a swift recourse to prevent a drone filming you or your business activities, it’s wise to arm yourself with detection and prevention options.

    Drone detection systems and drone mitigation measures can markedly increase your protection from the risk of being filmed. Systems like AeroScope can detect and track drones and return identifiable information. This enables organisations to deploy defence systems. Law enforcement or security teams can be summoned to mitigate the threat from the drone and locate the operator.

    Free eBook: Detecting Drone Threats in Public Safety

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    Speak to the drone detection experts:

    Contact us here at COPTRZ or alternatively, call our friendly team on 0330 111 7177 to discuss your drone detection needs. Alternatively, contact us via email at if you’d prefer.


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