On August 29, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration’s long-awaited small unmanned aircraft systems rule went into effect, for the first time broadly authorizing commercial drone operations. This is a positive step, as drones have great safety and efficiency benefits for the public. Nevertheless, the American public remains concerned about drone privacy issues.
On Monday, August 3, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration kicked off the multistakeholder process to develop best practices for commercial and private unmanned aircraft systems use. As we previously reported, the NTIA action follows the White House’s February 15, 2015, Presidential Memorandum directing NTIA to lead private sector groups toward the creation of commercial UAS standards and the NTIA’s request for comments on privacy, transparency, and accountability issues related to the use of UAS.
Across the country, we’re in the midst of “Unmanned Aircraft Systems ever” – industries from media, agriculture and energy to insurance, real estate and construction are seeking FAA approvals to fly UAS here in the United States. UAS technology has improved at a rapid pace, and offer a vast array of safety and efficiency benefits to companies for a wide variety of uses. But while the benefits from commercial uses of UAS are great, many have also been vocal with their privacy concerns. It may very well be that for industry to succeed, various stakeholders will need to engage in a national conversation surrounding these issues.
On 29 March, the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data published a guidance note that supplements previous guidance on the use of closed circuit television systems and for the first time addresses the increasing use of unmanned aircraft systems. The Commissioner’s guidance is the first significant regulatory engagement on the use of UAS by a Hong Kong regulator.
As commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems begins to take flight, the Hogan Lovells Privacy and Information Management practice has partnered with colleagues from across the firm to respond to the needs of manufacturers and operators of UAS. The launch of the group comes at a time when government activity to regulate UAS is creating both new opportunities and risks in the marketplace.
Over the next five years in the United States, thousands of drones are expected to be deployed for an array of commercial and governmental purposes. This prospect has captured the public’s imagination, and there are concerns about the privacy implications and whether new laws and regulations are needed. We here provide an overview of existing privacy requirements for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) operating in the United States, describe new privacy proposals, and outline three scenarios that, depending on decisions by policymakers, could govern the privacy requirements for the commercial use of UAS for years to come.
A serious challenge to the personal privacy of private aviators was averted on December 1st, when the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) rescinded a rule that would have terminated a long-standing procedure whereby private pilots were permitted to shield their flights from real-time flight tracking information made available to the public.