Well, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 107 commercial drone regulations are in full swing this week and without the inclusion of specific privacy standards, there are still concerns about privacy-related drone issues. As we reported last week, the Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC) filed a complaint against the FAA alleging that the final drone rule fails to include privacy regulations. For now, until resolution of that claim, commercial drone operators should note a few aspects of the final drone rule that have some sort of privacy implications.
There are three provisions to pay attention to:
1. No Operation over People
Drones may not be flown over persons unless those persons are directly participating in the drone flight, except when those persons are under a covered structure, inside a covered stationary vehicle or when the FAA has provided a specific waiver for such operations.
2. Operation Only in Visual Line-of-Sight
Drones may only be operated in visual line-of-sight of the drone’s visual observer. This means that the drone must be close enough to be seen without the aid of any device (not including corrective lenses of course). This presumably precludes drones from observing distant subjects or places far beyond the operator’s line-of-sight.
3 No Night Operations
Drones may not be operated at night without a special waiver from the FAA. However, operation 30 minutes before official sunrise or 30 minutes after official sunset are permitted as long as the drone is equipped with appropriate anti-collision lighting. Drones are essentially prohibited from capturing images under the cover of darkness.
While none of these aspects of the final drone rule specifically address privacy concerns, these are important requirements to know and remember if your company starts to use drones in its day-to-day operations.