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Drones, Surveillance Law

To Drone or Not To Drone

In the last few years, we have seen an ever-increasing number of drones being purchased and used in NSW.

One industry that has increased the use of drones is the real estate industry, with agents always wanting to take that best shot to sell a property. Whenever you search realestate.com.au, there is nearly always a drone shot of the property for sale.

Another industry using drones is event coordination, to get a bird’s eye view of attendees enjoying festivities.

Drones have also overtaken the kite as a gift for our kids. Instead of just holding a piece of string with some plastic at the end, kids can now fly a drone all over the neighbourhood.

The issue is, where does this leave privacy? Are we free to fly drones or are we infringing people’s privacy?

The Australian legal framework has largely failed to keep pace with these changing trends. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulates drones in terms of aviation safety, but its powers do not extend to other key issues such as privacy and insurance.

Unlike some other States in Australia, New South Wales surveillance laws are relatively comprehensive, regulating the use of listening devices, optical surveillance devices, tracking devices, and data surveillance devices which monitor information to and from a computer.

Unbeknownst to drone users, they may be in breach of the NSW laws because they have failed to take a few moments to think of the wider implications of flying their drone. If flown in the wrong place, the operator of the drone could be in breach of privacy laws, could be charged with stalking, or could even be infringing national security.

Also, local councils have put in place prohibitions against flying drones in public parks and playgrounds. This will vary from Council to Council and it is a good idea to contact your local Council and inquire whether there are any restrictions on flying drones.

Consequently, in New South Wales we need to take a few moments to ensure that we are not breaching any laws or regulations when flying drones, either for personal recreation or in the course of our business.

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