Drones—privacy and data protection

The following TMT practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Drones—privacy and data protection
  • Why do drones raise data protection issues?
  • UAS regulations
  • Registration requirements
  • Authorised operations
  • The United Kingdom General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) regime as it applies to drones
  • Is it personal data?
  • Who is the data controller?
  • Direct liability for the data processor
  • Data protection principles
  • More...

Drones—privacy and data protection

‘Drone’ or ‘unmanned aircraft’ is the term commonly used to describe an aircraft which does not have a human pilot on board but instead is controlled remotely through pre-flight and in-flight programming and operation.

Other terms are sometimes used, often formally, to describe a drone, the most common being:

  1. remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS)

  2. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)

  3. unmanned aircraft system (UAS)

UAV means the drone itself and is regarded as a subset of the UAS—the entire fully autonomous system incorporating the drone. The other elements of the system include command and control links, sensors and or data recording devices, and a computer or tablet device for data storage.

This Practice Note considers the following privacy and data protection issues arising in relation to the civilian use of drones:

  1. Why do drones raise data protection issues?

  2. UAS regulations

  3. The United Kingdom General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) regime as it applies to drones

  4. Surveillance

  5. Ownership of data recorded by drones

  6. Data sharing and publishing

Note that the term ‘drone’ may also be used to refer to military, intelligence service and law enforcement UAVs. Drones operated in those contexts are not covered by this note.

See also Practice Note: Drones—the legal framework and Precedent: Drone services agreement.

For guidance on data protection law generally, see: Data protection regime—overview, Data sharing and transactions—overview, Data breaches, sanctions and enforcement—overview and

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