Expert advice on 'eyes in the skies' - 8848

Expert advice on ‘eyes in the skies’

With a rapid expansion in the use of drone technology, an expert from leading law firm Higgs & Sons offers some practical legal advice to would-be users.

Formerly the preserve of the military, as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) become accessible to a wider range of civilian customers, farmers in particular have been quick to recognise the benefits of these ‘eyes in the sky’.

Partner Paul Barker, a property disputes specialist at Higgs & Sons, said: “Drone use is very much in the spotlight at the moment. However despite the negative publicity they can attract when misused, more and more industries are employing these useful machines to increase productivity and reduce costs.

“There have been a few reported incidents of livestock being worried or injured by drones or debris from the vehicles, but increasingly we are seeing the positive applications in agriculture. Because not only can low-flying drones monitor crops across vast areas in more detail than satellite images, some have cameras which can detect weeds or disease, reducing the reliance on chemicals, boosting crop yields, cutting costs and speeding up the process for time-strapped farmers.

“However, there are strict laws governing the commercial use of drones, which everyone needs to be aware of before they prepare for take-off.”

  • You must seek permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly a camera or surveillance fitted AUV on a commercial basis
  • Operators are banned from flying over, or within 150m, or an organised assembly of more than 1,000 people
  • Flights within 50 metres of any person are banned
  • Flying a drone over someone else’s property may well amount to a trespass or nuisance, and filming people without their consent could constitute a breach of the Data Protection Act
  • Farmers should also check that their insurance covers them against any possible claims, such as for damage or injury
  • Operators not complying with all regulations governing drone flights face prosecution

Paul Barker added: “There is no doubt that the rapid advance in drone technology and the many practical applications of these machines can be hugely beneficial to a wide variety of commercial sectors, as long as people ensure their operations are within the strictly enforced regulations.

“There have been several cases where users have been prosecuted for flying drones near to sensitive sites such as nuclear installations, sporting venues or public buildings.

“Anyone thinking of embracing drone use on their land would be wise to seek legal advice to ensure they are aware of and compliant with all laws relating to unmanned aircraft flight.”

For more information on Higgs & Sons’ advice for agricultural and rural services please contact Paul Barker on 0345 111 5050 or