New drone rules protect home privacy

  • 14/07/2015
New drone rules protect home privacy

New drone regulations come into effect on August 1, banning the small aircraft from flying over houses without the property owner's consent.

Stephen Iorns, a barrister who has been looking into the privacy implications and the Civil Aviation Authority regulations surrounding drones, says surprisingly there aren't as many complaints as might be expected.

"The Privacy Commission has only received one complaint to date," Mr Iorns told TV3's Paul Henry programme this morning. "[But] it's hard to tell how many the police have fielded to date because they don't really much about it, they've got no policy."

He said part of the reason for the lack of complaints was because of the lack of regulations concerning drones.

"The difficulty is there isn't a lot to complain about at present. The Civil Aviation Authority have drafted some rules to cover safety and those relate to whether someone can fly over your property or directly over your head without your consent – and they can't.

"But if they're up on the road above your house looking onto your property but not over your property, they're not committing any offence against the Civil Aviation rules. If you're not naked they're potentially not committing any criminal acts – there's really no one to complain to."

Although there are currently no specific laws, general privacy rules do apply to drones, he said.

"It doesn't matter what the technology is, the general rules are the same."

The most significant new rule that will come into effect in August is that drone operators will have to gain the consent of property owners before flying over their house and people who they fly over.

"That covers things like sporting events, music events… unless there is an exemption obtained by the Civil Aviation Authority, they can't cover those events without the consent of every single person they will fly over."

The rules are prompted by both privacy and security concerns, says Mr Iorns.

"That comes down to a safety consideration – we don't want drones of up to 15kgs dropping out of the sky and landing on people's heads."

Watch the full interview with Stephen Iorns.