Drones law and Privacy in the UK


Any drone with a camera can capture data in the form of images. Therefore most drones will come under privacy laws and we need to be mindful of how we use this data.

The first thing that needs to be clarified is whether the drones are being used for commercial or personal use. Although the drone code mentions we should be aware of privacy, the CAA do not give a clear definition of what is an invasion of privacy. For more detailed information on this the ICO Information Commissioner’s Office website is useful, alongside their leaflet on CCTV code of practice which also includes drones.

Commercial Drone Use

Commercial drone use will need to take into account GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and therefore will be subject to far stricter privacy laws. See more info click here. Breaking these laws can be very serious and lead to incredibly severe fines. The laws will not only cover what footage is taken, but also how is stored and shared.

Personal Drone Use

The laws with personal drone use tend to be monitored less as the footage is less likely to be published, however it is still possible to invade peoples privacy. Therefore it is good practice for domestic users to be aware of the potential privacy intrusion.

What we recommend for personal use

Things that are a good idea whilst flying as a hobbyist are:

  • Keeping 50 meters high whilst filming if people are in shot (so they are not recognisable)
  • Or waiting for people to leave before filming
  • Not filming close to property
  • Stopping recording if you feel you are invading privacy
  • Use common sense. Would you mind if you were the person being recorded?

How Can We Avoid Privacy Intrusion?

There are several way we can avoid or reduce privacy intrusion. These include:

  • Making sure any people within the shot are not recognisable
  • Not targeting a specific person
  • Not recording anything you do not intend on using
    • Making sure you are visible when operating your drone
  • Avoid capturing images of people and certain property
  • Use common sense. Would you mind if you were the person being recorded?

Making sure any people within the shot are not recognisable

Making sure the person in the footage is not recognisable is good way to ensure you protect their privacy. It is important to remember people can be recognised, not only by their face, but by the context they are shot including any property they are near or actions they are performing. For this reason it is important to have strong justification for publishing this data.

Targeting a Person

Following a person that is recognisable or picking them out of a crowd is an invasion of privacy and should be avoided. If somebody however walks into the background unintentionally, but is still recognisable, where they are, what they are doing and the purpose of filming are all things that will need to be taken into account. The justification for commercial use will need to be particularly strong and it is also worth noting that any request form an individual to see the footage recorded of them must be met within 40 days.

Only Record What You Need

This again is particularly important from a commercial perspective. If you are surveying a roof for example, the only thing that should be recorded is the roof and not the neighboring houses.

If you are flying domestically from your back garden when your neighbors are in theirs, it would be and invasion of privacy to be recording them, particularly when taking off or landing. To avoid this you can simply make sure the camera is turned off.

Making sure you are visible

Making sure you are visible is good idea as anyone with any concerns can address them with you or choose to stay clear.

Avoid capturing images of people

It goes without saying that if you take footage without people in it will be difficult to invade their privacy.

Common Sense

Particularly when shooting domestically a lot of it comes down to common sense. The chances are that you would know if what you are doing is push the boundaries or invading someones privacy. We can ask ourselves ‘would we mind it if it were us being recorded?’ It the answer is yes, then is likely a bad idea.