Topless sunbaker’s fury at ‘peeping’ drone
Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au's weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn tackle your legal rights when it comes to privacy from drones.
QUESTION: I live in a quiet suburb and have a nice, private backyard with high hedges all around. It's not overlooked in any way so sometimes I sunbake topless. The only problem is that recently I've noticed a drone flying by every so often. I have no idea whose drone it is or what they're doing with it. I'm concerned they might be taking aerial photos and it's made me feel less comfortable in my own backyard. I'd be furious if I discovered topless photos of me are out there without my consent. What are my rights with drones flying over my property and what can I do to stop them? Carol, Sunshine Coast.
ANSWER: The popularity of drones has skyrocketed in recent years but unfortunately many people who fly them don't realise there are rules that apply to their use.
Given you don't know who is behind the potential peeping drone, we can understand why this could send you into a tailspin, but you do have rights and some options.
Any person operating a drone - including those using them just for fun - must follow safety rules set by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
The overarching principle is that drones should not be used in a way that causes a hazard to another aircraft, property or a person.
Assuming the person operating the drone near your backyard doesn't hold a remote pilot licence, some of the basic rules that apply include:
1. The drone must not be flown higher than 120 metres above the ground
2. Importantly for you, the drone must not be flown within 30 metres of people (unless they are controlling or navigating the drone)
3. The drone cannot be flown over or above people, no matter how high it is flown
4. The drone must not be flown around an area affecting public safety or where there is an emergency (e.g. a car crash)
5. Only one drone can be flown at a time
6. The drone can only be flown during the day
7. The drone must be within the line of sight of the operator at all times
8. The drone operator needs to respect personal privacy, including not taking photos of you without your consent (more on this below).
CASA will investigate complaints if you consider someone has breached the above rules.
Ideally with any report to CASA you should provide them with proof of the rules being broken, such as photos of the person operating the drone. If you're unable to track down the operator, try and record a video of the drone above you.
CASA can issue fines of up to $1050 or, if the matter proceeds to court, a fine of up to $10,500.
It's important to note that CASA will not investigate any complaints about invasion of privacy and there are other laws that may apply.
If you have been filmed or photographed and the drone operator is a government agency or an organisation with an annual turnover of more than $3 million, the Privacy Act 1988 will likely apply.
This says the drone operator must tell you that your image may be captured before any recording takes place, and ensure any images are kept secure or destroyed after use.
However, the Privacy Act doesn't apply to private citizens.
You could also consider reporting your concerns to the police as anti-stalking or trespass laws may apply.
There may have been a number of complaints about the drone to police, which means they may investigate further to find the offending operator.
This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor.
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Originally published as Topless sunbaker's fury at 'peeping' drone