UK drone photography laws are designed to protect the safety and privacy of the general public. Newly introduced European general data protection regulation laws known as ‘GDPR’ have increased privacy protection for aerial photography in Cumbria and the UK as a whole. As drone technology is still relatively new, legislation is having to play catch up and adapt to their use. Anyone using drones for aerial photography has a responsibility to understand existing laws and keep up with changes so as not to fall foul of the ever changing laws.
The first important thing to understand is the difference in laws applying to drone hobby flyers and commercial drone operators. Anyone offering services like drone roof surveys, aerial filming and drone photography for payment must have approval to operate from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Approval comes in the form of a permission for commercial operation from the CAA called a PFCO, not a UK drone licence as many people believe.
Obtaining CAA Permission For Commercial Operations involves studying and passing an exam on drone laws in the UK, health and safety considerations, how to ensure a drone is airworthy and other important subjects. The operator needs to produce a very detailed operations manual listing all processes and procedures for commercial drone operations. A pilot also has to pass a practical test demonstrating that they are sufficiently proficient in flying a drone.
Hobby drone flyers don’t need to pass exams and tests currently, but changes are coming. Some may resist this, but drones can be dangerous in the wrong hands so it’s reasonable that all users should have an understanding of the risks and how to mitigate them. Public perception of drones is quite negative, so steps to improve safety can also help the drone industry to be viewed more positively.
The next important drone photography UK laws relate to privacy and data protection. It’s legal to take a person’s photograph in a public place in the UK, but the use of the images does need to be considered. If you plan to sell or profit from pictures of identifiable people they need to give their consent. Naturally you need to be sensitive to photographing children without parental consent, and bear in mind that some may be under protection and can’t have their images published online. Drone filming comes under the same legislation as CCTV filming and comes under the jurisdiction of the information commissioners office.
Drone photography UK laws must be taken seriously. Greater regulation of the use of unmanned aircraft is likely over coming years, and there will be more resources for enforcement.