Drones: new applications, new privacy considerations

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Dr Rachel Finn
- Director, Data Protection & Cyber-risk Services / Head of Irish Operations

Date: 7 November 2017

Trilateral Research is working to raise awareness of privacy, including data protection requirements, among both recreational and commercial drone users with our work on the DroneRules.EU project.

To take full advantage of the benefits of drone applications, while ensuring their responsible use, the DroneRules.EU project website aims to become the ‘one-stop-shop’ for drone users, offering information and guidance about privacy and data protection, as well as safety and insurance requirements.

The available civil applications for drone technology appear limitless, stretching from precision agriculture to environmental protection, from infrastructure inspection to disaster response management, from construction work to insurance and real estate. The wide range of drone equipment available and the agile maneuvring capabilities of drones allow for all this and more.

However, many of these commercial drone applications hinge upon the capability of drones to collect, process and transmit data. Due to data collection and processing capabilities, the operation of drones in the proximity of people can raise serious privacy considerations and may lead to legal data protection obligations for drone operators. Even where no footage of individuals is collected, people may experience a fear of being observed and feel their freedom is restricted, which can interfere with an individual’s right to privacy, for example. To ensure that drone use is socially accepted and sustainable, due consideration should be given to data protection and privacy.

Watch this video produced by DroneRules project partners for an overview of some of the relevant considerations for drone users:

The DroneRules.EU website will continue to develop alongside the soon-to-begin DroneRules PRO – a project specifically designed to promote a privacy culture among active professional and commercial drone users in Europe. Through interactive modules, courses, tests and games, DroneRules PRO will enhance the work undertaken in the DroneRules.EU project.

Through these activities, Trilateral seeks to ensure the array of civil applications of drones and the sustainability of the European drones industry by supporting and promoting privacy-awareness among drone operators and helping responsible innovation happen.

Projects Website: DroneRulesEU

For more information on this research area please contact our team.

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