“To drone or not to drone” has been the question of the month for local governing councils across Great Britain.
The Telegraph reports that two councils (local governing bodies) – Epping Forest and Moray – were in the process of either training or making application to use drones – a move that has raised privacy concerns for some Britons.
A government report released this past week stated that the UAVs would be used by the councils to enforce planning applications and to inspect properties under application review.
In February, the Epping Forest district – located just north of London — purchased two drones at a cost of just over $7,000. Government documents indicate the aircraft would be used by the Planning Enforcement and its Emergency Planning departments.
A council spokesperson said the drones had yet to be deployed and that officials are cobbling together “training and documentation, including a policy [that] will ensure usage fully conforms with the Human Rights Act, Data Protection Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.”
Epping Forest council reports state that public safety would be the government’s top concern: “There could be potential issues if the operators were not properly trained, but Council staff who operated the system will be properly trained.”
Moray Council has hired at least three UAVs over the past two months. In February, the council considered deploying imagery drones for “better views of some sites seeking [zoning] consent such as windfarm applications.”
And, despite both councils’ claims unmanned craft pilots will respect homeowner privacy, some officials are skeptical. “Councils should not be spending taxpayers’ money on owning or renting drones,” a spokesperson with the Liberal Democrat Party told the Telegraph. “There is no real need for them. It is busy-body local government at its worst.”
Several other public agencies across Britain have also launched drone trials. Police in Devon and Cornwall began a six-month trial in February with two drones officials say will be used to look for missing persons, assist police at crime scenes and traffic accidents as well as general aerial photography.
In Surrey, the county’s volunteer search-and-rescue team announced a partnership with the local police to deploy drones to find missing persons – especially children or those suffering dementia. The service uses twin DJI Phantom 3 UAVs to scan a specific area and stream high-def video including thermal imaging.
Like commercial operators, government agencies must obtain a license to fly from the CAA (the British counterpart to the FAA) to legally pilot drones in public spaces.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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