Lawyer says local authority drones are a welcome development

A lawyer who has co-written a book about the law governing drones in the skies over the UK has said that the use of drones by an increasing number of local authorities is something to be welcomed.

Rufus Ballaster, a co-author of A Practical Guide to Drone Law and Senior Partner at City law firm, Carter Lemon Camerons LLP, made the comments after local authorities, including North Yorkshire County Council, were revealed to be using the airborne technology for purposes such as planning enforcement.

While the development provoked condemnation from groups including Big Brother Watch, Rufus was more optimistic about the prospect, saying that drone use is well-regulated in the UK and can help protect communities from a range of anti-social behaviours.

“A breach of the law which ought to be taken seriously when detected and acted on, should be followed up whether the evidence comes from satellite images, photos taken by a council officer on the ground or from properly regulated drone captured data.

“This is not something we should be concerned about. In fact, we should be pleased,” said Rufus.

He added: “For every illegal rave organiser hoping to manage to leave the site of a successful event before being ejected by the authorities, there are many people living or operating nearby who wish the authorities got enough warning to stop the event from even starting.

“For every property owner who has built an extension under permitted development rights, but ‘overbuilt’ it to get more space, there are law-abiding citizens who value the controls that planning law imposes and who want local authorities to take actions to uphold the law.”

However, he said that while he applauds the use of drones by local authorities and other for enforcement, they should be careful to ensure they remain within the letter of the UK’s strict regulations.

Rufus said: “It is certainly not the case that the breach of one law would justify the breach of another. Drones should be flown in full compliance with the many rules, regulations and private law restrictions which apply to these flexible and impressive bits of modern technology.”