Civil liberties group warns over councils’ increasing use of drones

1 May 19

Drone usage should come with “clear safeguards” as councils look to make greater use of the technology, a civil liberties group has warned.

Councils could use drones to “expand the surveillance state”, according to the Big Brother Watch campaign group. 

North Yorkshire County Council, which bought a £2,000 drone in December, said that it may be used to inspect complaints of fly-tipping and “inspecting poor roofing work by a rogue trader”.

The council’s drone plans come as The Telegraph has reported more than 20 councils have been granted approval by the Civil Aviation Authority to use drones for commercial purposes.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “There’s a real risk that drones could be used by councils to expand the surveillance state.

“There should be clear safeguards in place to make sure authorities make the best of new technologies without having free license to snoop on the public in absence of good reason.”

Matt O’Neill, assistant director of growth, planning and trading standards, at NYCC said the technology will help the council “work smarter” and will “make more efficient use of our limiter resources and to enhance health and safety”.

“It could also include inspecting sites in relation to breaches of minerals and waste planning controls, for example, illegal disposal of waste such as building materials on farmland; compliance with boundary limits for extraction in quarrying or restoration of landfill requirements like planting trees in the right locations,” he said.

In September, Oxford City Council launched a commercial drone service for to carry out tasks like surveying, land mapping and photography.

The CAA launched a consultation last week on charging each drone operator on the UK Drone Registration Scheme £16.50. The scheme will be in operation from the 1 October 2019 and is a legal requirement under the Air Navigation Order from 30 November 2019.

The government has funded the setting up of the scheme but from 1 October it will be paid for by those on the register.

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