Drone compliance – it’s still a thing

There was an article in a housing magazine recently that highlighted some of the data compliance issues around drone use in aerial property inspections.

drone compliance
Drone flight is now well governed in the UK

It caught my eye because, quite honestly, compliance is something we talk about a lot here at Sky Revolutions.

The article quite rightly pointed out the cost and safety benefits of drone inspections and also stated that they were receiving an increasingly large number of requests from housing organisations for information about drone inspections.

That doesn’t surprise us. We work for a number of housing providers and facilities management companies who have already caught on to the benefits. But as the article points out, there are those who don’t understand, or are totally unaware, of the very strict legislation and guidance that exists around flying a drone to gather data.

In terms of data protection, guidance is underpinned by the Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR). This law clearly establishes the drone operator (that’s us) as the Data Controller, and that in turn places the obligation for managing and processing the data squarely on the shoulders of operators.

There are a range of processes operators must go through to comply with this legislation and a number of mitigating measures that can be undertaken to support compliance. But data protection is only one set of legislation that drone operators must comply with.

The ICO’s CCTV Code was developed to explain the legal requirements of operators using any type of surveillance camera and was updated to include unmanned aerial systems. It covers the additional responsibilities of operators with more focus on privacy impact assessments and notices.

Then there are the critical regulations that govern drone flight generally and are designed to protect safety. These regulations are largely managed by the CAA in the UK and they cover everything from registration, education, licensing, insurance, line of sight, indoor use, operational authorisation, risk assessment, and airspace restrictions.

It still baffles me that some qualified pilots (naming no names) are not aware that they need to notify local airfields (for example) when flying – even indoors.

As commercial operators, It is entirely incumbent on us to educate ourselves around the law in the UK, comply with that law, and educate our customers too.

Drones have been around for a while now, long enough for there to be no excuse when it comes to complying with the law and flying safely. We leant our voice to the development of the legislation in the early days of commercial drone operation and will continue to play out part in the development of the sector.

As drone technology progresses generally, and drone autonomy progresses specifically, there will be a need for more regulation and tighter control. And quite right too.

In the mean time, there are a few great sources of information for housing providers to start to educate themselves – see below. We’re always happy to chat through some of the specifics – just give us a shout: 01778 560929 or email [email protected]

CAA – Airspace restrictions

CAA – Where drones can fly in the UK

Drone law – summary

The Drone Code

ICO – Data Protection and drones