Increased sales of drones highlights privacy concerns and lack of support.

December 27, 2016 |

The privacy problems with drones has long been recognised.  I have posted on it regularly (here, here, here, here and here just for a few examples). The  Australian has reported in Sharp rise in drone sales ramps up pressure to protect privacy on the Federal Government that the Federal Government has yet again eschewed a strong recommendation to increase privacy protections, in the form of a civil cause of action for breach of privacy.  It is a retrograde step. It makes little policy sense and puts off the inevitable need to fill a gap in the law.

Meanwhile in the Conversation Got a drone for Christmas? Know the law before taking to the skies there is a good synopsis of the law as it stands.  The problem is that the law is poorly enforced.  More to the point the main regulator, CASA, has no interest in privacy issues.  It remains a laissez faire environment except where there is a high profile incident.

The Australian article provides:

A sharp rise in the sale of drone aircraft is putting pressure on the Turnbull government to shield Australians from threats to their privacy, as federal MPs warn of the risks from cheaper devices with increasingly powerful ­cameras.

A government decision to ­reject tougher privacy laws has ­ignited a debate over the spread of airborne devices with zoom cameras, turning the issue into a political flashpoint in the year ahead.

The privacy debate adds to a push in federal parliament for stronger safety measures to keep drones away from buildings and people, after the Civil Aviation Safety Authority last year relaxed the rules on recreational craft lighter than 2kg.

“With lower cost and higher quality drones on the market, their prevalence is continuing to increase drastically,” said Liberal MP Michael Sukkar, who heads the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security.

“It’s therefore even more important that rules to protect the community’s privacy and safety are updated to keep pace with these changes.”

Mr Sukkar was a member of an influential committee two years ago that issued a bipartisan call for tougher privacy laws given the proliferation of drones.

The federal government took two years to answer the “eyes in the sky” report but quietly issued a formal response two weeks ago that agreed to two of the recommendations but rejected four ­others.

The government backed a proposal for more consultation by CASA and the distribution of safety and privacy pamphlets to stores selling drones, but it rejected the idea of considering a civil law to allow individuals to take legal action over breaches of their privacy.

The government “noted” but did not agree to recommendations to review the privacy protections or harmonise laws across the country on how “optical surveillance devices” could be used.

Another member of the committee, Labor MP Terri Butler, said it was disappointing the government had failed to act on the need for greater privacy protections on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

“We heard that the law of trespass was very, very limited as a possible remedy for people whose privacy was invaded by UAVs, and especially UAVs with high-resolution cameras or videos,” she said. “It’s very clear there is a mounting case for some sort of creation of specific privacy rights in this country.”

Stores now charge about $400 for a Parrot “Bebop” drone with a 14 megapixel fisheye camera and high-definition video, but prices rise to $2600 for an “aerial inspection package” with a Sony camera and a 50x zoom lens.

The report was unanimous among all 11 members of the House of Representatives committee, including Christian Porter, a Liberal backbencher at the time but now the Social Services Minister.

Labor MP Graham Perrett said the committee members worked hard to arrive at a bipartisan consensus and should see its recommendations acted upon.

“Having gone through the shops with my kids, I’ve seen more opportunities for privacy to be invaded,” he said.

“Once something goes viral on the internet, that can be someone’s life destroyed.”

Transport Minister Darren Chester said consumers had a responsibility to consider the safety and privacy of others as “the penetration of drones into our lives will increase in the years ahead.

“It’s a question of making sure we get the benefits without the negatives.”

The Conversation article provides:

Whether a beginner, a serious aviation enthusiast, or just a fan of gadgets, many of you will have received drones as Christmas gifts. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have surged in popularity and affordability in recent years, and there’s no doubt that recreational drone use is on the rise as a result.

But not all recreational drone users know the law – or if they do, they don’t appear to be following it. There has been a string of near misses between drones and other aircraft, and other cases of irresponsible use.

Only last month, a recreational drone user was investigated by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) after evidently flying a drone over a crowded Bunnings carpark to pick up a sausage at a sausage sizzle.

In the runup to Christmas, UN aviation officials this month warned anyone getting a drone to make sure they learn how to operate it safely. So if Santa has brought you one, here’s what you need to know.

Get on board

In Australia, if you want to fly your drone for fun, you don’t need CASA’s approval – as long as you follow the authority’s simple safety rules. Recreational drone operators must comply with CASA’s rules (known as its standard operating conditions).

You must only fly your drone within visual line of sight – that is, where you are able to see the drone with your own eyes, rather than with the help of binoculars or a telescope, for example. What’s more, you can only fly in visual meteorological conditions, which generally means no night flights.

In most Australian cities, you can only fly your drone up to a maximum altitude of 120 metres – most of this airspace is considered controlled airspace. To fly a recreational drone any higher, you must seek approval from CASA and adhere to any associated conditions.

During flight, you must keep your drone at least 30 metres from anyone who is not directly associated with its operation. The drone must also not be flown over populated areas (that is, areas that are sufficiently crowded that the drone would pose an unreasonable risk to the life, safety or property of someone present). This includes crowded beaches or parks, or sports ovals where a game is in progress.

There is a general prohibition on flying a drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property. A “hazard” may be interpreted fairly broadly. To be safe, CASA recommends keeping your drone at least 5.5km away from any airfield. Operations within 5.5km of an airfield are allowed in some instances, as long as they are not on the approach and departure path, and would not otherwise get in the way of aircraft using the airfield.

Recreational drone users are also advised to respect personal privacy by not recording or taking photos of people without their consent. While privacy concerns are not within CASA’s purview, operators may find themselves in breach of state and territory privacy or trespass laws, depending on how and where the drone is flown, and whether audio, video or photographic footage is recorded.

High flyers

As a general rule, drones cannot be flown for money or economic reward without a specific licence. There are, however, two new instances where such a certificate is not required: for commercial-like operations over your own land, and for commercial flights with very small drones (under 2kg) provided that the pilot notifies CASA at least five business days beforehand, and adheres to all the existing rules for recreational drone use.

Having considered all the rules, the Bunnings sausage sizzle incident starts to look less like a harmless jape and more like a multiple breach of the rules (although the video’s author has claimed that the video was an edited composite rather than all shot during a single flight).

The video appears to show several breaches of the rules, including: flying a drone out of visual line of sight (assuming that it is being piloted from the backyard hot tub depicted in the video); flying within 30m of people; and flying over a populated area. The operator is potentially facing a fine of up to A$9,000.

If you’re worried your new drone might get you into similar hot water, CASA provides significant guidance to help operators avoid infringing the rules. That way, you can make sure your high-flying gift doesn’t end up ruining your Christmas cheer.

One Response to “Increased sales of drones highlights privacy concerns and lack of support.”

  1. Increased sales of drones highlights privacy concerns and lack of support. | Australian Law Blogs

    […] Increased sales of drones highlights privacy concerns and lack of support. […]

Leave a Reply

Verified by MonsterInsights