CLA calls for update of privacy rules amid soaring sales of drones

A camera "drone" used to take aerial pictures.

A camera "drone" used to take aerial pictures. - Credit: Archant

Landowners’ leaders are calling on regulators to update privacy rules around drone use as festive sales reach new heights.

Last Christmas, consumer drone sales rose by 24%, with electronics dealer Maplin Direct reporting that domestic sales topped 10,000 units over a 12-month period.

A new study from Juniper Research says the number of consumer drones shipped globally in 2015 is set to be around the four million mark – and will top 20million by 2020.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says it’s concerned that current regulations are not robust enough to protect people’s privacy, especially with the rise in popularity of drones as gifts.

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

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“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,” said Mr Underwood.

“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 public safety and privacy.”

The CLA says operators should use common sense when operating a drone and keep it in sight at all times and not fly it above 400ft. It urges people to fly safely and understand the law as operators can be prosecuted if machines are found to be flying unsafely.

Drones should never be flown within 50m of people or buildings. The CLA urges owners to respect the privacy of others and obtain permission before flying over privately-owned land or property, and remember that animals can easily be frightened by drones which can cause injury to them and others.