The Use of Drones for Commercial Purposes and Privacy Rights of Others

Introduction

In the field of innovative technology, drones are used in different spheres of human activities. Drones can be used to handle complex jobs, offer security, conduct surveillance and collect information. However, the employment of drones can pose challenges from the point of standpoint of human rights and privacy, which raises the question of the need for legislative regulation of the use of drones

Drones pose a privacy issue since they can record and acquire personal information without consent, endangering human rights. They can also pollute the environment with noise, jeopardizing health. The lack of standards and rules for drone use is a serious problem. Legal regulations are required to set restricted flight zones and technical standards for commercial and private drones.

While drones have many useful applications, they also have the potential to do serious harm if mishandled. As a result, there are legal consequences to drone abuse that people should be aware of.

Definition and Classification of Drones

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are aircraft that may be operated remotely by a human operator or an onboard computer system. They are employed in a variety of industries, including photography, agriculture, and search and rescue missions. However, as drones have gotten more economical and accessible, they have also become more common in everyday life, resulting in instances of drone misuse.

Drones offer a wide range of sizes, shapes, and configurations. These devices range from small handhelds for personal use to huge business ones capable of transporting heavy payloads over long distances.

Drones are classified based on their purpose, design features, and operating capabilities. Quadcopters, a type of multirotor drone, can hover, maneuver, and remain stable under different environments. These features make them ideal for aerial photography, surveillance, and lightweight cargo transport.

Fixed-wing drones, like airplanes, have wings that generate lift and propel them forward. Drones are ideal for applications that require long flight lengths and efficient distance coverage, such as mapping large areas or conducting remote surveillance.

Hybrid drones combine the vertical take-off and landing capabilities of multirotors with the endurance and efficiency of fixed-wing aircraft for long missions. Hybrid drones excel in settings that require both hovering and long-range flying.

Drone applications cover a wide range of industries and areas. Drones are used in agriculture for duties such as crop monitoring, pesticide spraying, and precision farming, helping farmers increase crop output and optimize resources. In

Drones are used in construction for site surveying, progress monitoring, and infrastructure inspection to improve project management safety and efficiency.

Drones are used in environmental monitoring to watch wildlife, map habitats, and identify pollutants. This provides significant insights for academics and conservationists into ecosystem health and biodiversity. Drones are crucial in search and rescue, disaster response, and emergency medical supply delivery due to their agility and ability to reach remote locations, ultimately saving lives.

Drones’ capabilities are expanding with innovations like obstacle avoidance, advanced imaging sensors, and real-time data transmission, making them more useful in various industries.

Commercial Drone Services in Nigeria.

Commercial pilots must apply for a permit directly through the Nigerian Aviation Authority (NCAA). 

Pilot Requirements for Remote Pilot License:

  • They must be at least 18 years old
  • Go through the vetting procedure of the National Security Advisor, and
  • Pass a first aeronautical knowledge exam offered by an NCAA-accredited institution.

Aircraft requirements:

  • Drones weighing less than 25 kilograms (55 pounds) are authorized.
  • Drones need to be registered with the NCAA.
  • Operators must keep in visual contact with the aircraft.
  • Drones must fly at or below 400 feet.
  • Drones must fly at speeds of less than 100 miles per hour.
  • Drones must yield to crewed aircraft.
  • Drones are not permitted to fly over people.
  • Drones cannot fly from moving vehicles.
  • Drones cannot fly beyond line-of-sight without NCAA approval.

Operational restrictions:

  • Drones cannot be used irresponsibly or in a way that endangers persons, property, or other aircraft.
  • Drones cannot be flown over state borders or over high seas without formal authorization from Air Traffic Control.

Foreign Drone Operators:

  • Foreign drone operators must receive a “Recognition of Ownership” from the NCAA and carry it on all drone flights.

Additional requirements:

  • Commercial drone operators must provide a detailed business plan that includes the company’s vision, goal, market analysis, and strategy.
  • In order to conduct business, operators must demonstrate their solvency.
  • Operators must produce valid tax clearance certificates for their organization and each director.
  • At least one member of the board of directors must be an aviation specialist, and Nigerians must own the majority of the shares.

Penalties and Enforcement:

  • Unlawful Operations: Flying a drone without the necessary authorizations is illegal and can result in penalties or up to three years in prison.
  • NCAA Enforcement: The NCAA is responsible for implementing Nigeria’s drone regulations.

Legal issues

  • Privacy: Drones with cameras can be used to take photos and films of people without their permission, infringing on their private rights. In many countries, the use of drones for surveillance is strictly controlled, and those who use drones to record photographs or videos of others without their permission may face legal consequences.
  • Safety: Drones operated carelessly or without sufficient training can endanger people, property, wildlife, and other aircraft. Violations of rigorous drone flight laws may result in fines or additional legal penalties.
  • Permits and regulations: Commercial drone operators in Nigeria must obtain permits and follow regulations set by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Drones should not fly in restricted areas, such as those near airports or government facilities.
  • Data protection: Drones used for business purposes usually acquire data, which must be managed in compliance with data protection rules.
  • Intellectual property rights: Drones must not violate any intellectual property rights, including trademarks, copyrights, or patents.
  • National security: Drones should not be utilized in any manner that jeopardizes national security. Drone manufacturing, sale, and use must be regulated appropriately.
  • Workforce regulations: There may be restrictions in place to prohibit the exploitation of workers who use drones.
  • Consumer protection: Drones must abide with consumer protection standards, such as warranties and return policies.
  • Environmental regulations: Drones can have an impact on the environment, therefore rules must be put in place to mitigate the harmful effects. Drones should not cause soil erosion, uncontrolled emissions, or damage to wildlife habitats.

Ethical Issues

The ethical implications of using drones for commercial services in Nigeria are multifaceted and involve considerations of privacy, safety, and environmental impact. Here are some ethical concerns:

  • Surveillance and Data Collection: Drones equipped with cameras and GPS systems may inadvertently gather private data and video footage of persons, causing privacy and surveillance issues.
  • Data Protection: Drone operators have an ethical commitment to ensure the secure gathering, storage, and processing of private customer data to prevent unwanted access and data breaches.
  • Invasion of privacy: Drones equipped with cameras can be obtrusive and could violate an individual’s right to private.
  • Weaponization: Drones could be militarized and deployed unlawfully, posing a significant threat to public safety and national security.
  • Social and cultural impact: The usage of drones for commercial purposes may alter the way people work and interact with one another, resulting in social and cultural consequences that are not immediately evident.
  • Responsible use: The use of drones for commercial activity must be responsible, considering the potential impact on people, property, and the environment.
  • Liability: Drone operators must accept responsibility for any accidents, damage, or injuries that occur while operating the drone. Therefore, proper insurance should be put in place.
  • Accountability: Ethical and moral difficulties will arise with the usage of drones for commercial activity. To avoid unwanted outcomes, accountability for their use must be ensured.
  • Malfunctions and Collisions: Drone operators must guarantee that delivery aircraft do not endanger the people, property, or animals by avoiding malfunctions and maintaining safe flight paths.
  • Noise Pollution: Drones emit a characteristic buzzy sound, which can be disruptive in residential areas. Flight routes and schedules must be carefully designed to avoid noise annoyance.
  • Production and End-of-Life Disposal: Drones require materials and energy to manufacture, and their disposal, particularly their batteries, can pose environmental difficulties.
  • Infrastructure: Integration of drones into current systems necessitates new infrastructure, such as DroneSpots, which may incur environmental costs.
  • Job Displacement: The widespread use of drones for commercial services may result in job losses in traditional delivery industries, and there is an ethical need to give support and training to help workers adjust.
  • Drone Divide: Unequal access to drone technology and infrastructure can worsen economic inequality and create a “drone divide” between those who benefit from the technology and those who do not.
  • Cybersecurity: Drones are networked devices, making them susceptible to hacking, unauthorized access, and data breaches. Drone operators must use best practices to protect the security of sensitive customer data.

Torts of Privacy

In Nigeria, both statutory and common law torts apply to violations of privacy by individuals and organisations. In tort law, an individual can sue the person who committed the act or omission for a civil remedy, such as damages.

Individuals can also use common law torts to seek compensation for privacy violations. This comprises both the tort of “intrusion upon seclusion” and the unique tort of “disclosure of private facts.” Individuals whose privacy has been breached by drones may be entitled to sue for these and other torts, such as trespassing.

The tort of intrusion upon seclusion may occur if:

  • The drone operator intentionally and recklessly invaded the plaintiff’s private matters, inflicting anxiety, embarrassment, and sorrow.

The tort of disclosure of private facts can occur where:

  • The drone operator published information about the plaintiff’s private life without their consent, which would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and not of justifiable public concern.

Steps to Prevent Breach of Privacy 

Drone operators can take the following steps to reduce the danger of violating privacy laws or individual privacy rights during operations:

  • Restrict drone use in privacy-sensitive places (e.g., residential neighborhoods, schoolyards, shelters, hospitals, etc.).
  • Inform the neighboring people about the presence of drones and the types of operations.
  • When collecting vehicle license plates and faces, use blurring technology.
  • Implement a method that allows individuals to request that their photographs be restricted or taken down (e.g., for images posted online).
  • Limit the collection and retention of information that identifies a person (referred to above as “personal information”) to what is necessary for the operator’s commercial purposes.
  • Ensure adequate security measures for the data acquired; and
  • Make privacy training mandatory for all staff drone operators.

Conclusion

The legal consequences of drone misuse are serious and should not be overlooked. Individuals or commercial operators who utilise drones improperly or for illegal purposes may face serious legal penalties. As a result, it is critical for individuals to educate themselves about the regulations governing drone use, as well as to operate their drone safely and responsibly.

Note: The content of this article is anticipated to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstance.

By Adeola Oyinlade & Co.

Adeola Oyinlade & Co.; a full-service law firm in Nigeria provides help and offers advisory to both local and foreign clients on Litigation and Arbitration related matters in Nigeria. 

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