Some Countries Let You “Drone On” More Than Others: Data Privacy Trends

And, by “drone”, I mean flying one!  😉

It should come as no surprise that drones are becoming more popular – in the US and around the World.  The global drone industry is expected to nearly double within the next five years – from $22.5 billion in 2020 to $42.8 billion in 2025, a 13.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).  Already, an estimated one out of seven Americans has flown one.  As a result, lawmakers have been faced with new and complex regulatory challenges to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens when it comes to drone use.

According to Surfshark, at least 143 countries have enacted some form of drone-related regulation, many experts contend that current drone regulation is insufficient to deal with the threat of widespread surveillance. Drone laws around the world range from outright bans of the technology to relatively unrestricted flight, but most legislation focuses on how the drone is being operated — and does not address nuances related to privacy. Many of the privacy threats that have lawmakers concerned are speculative and rely on the technology of tomorrow — making it difficult to pass privacy-specific legislation today. In the meantime, lawmakers have been able to pass laws concerning drone operation, which are a first step to “privacy by design” legislation, restricting where and how a drone can be flown to minimize opportunities to violate privacy in the first place.


To support the effort to establish an international regulatory framework for drone legislation, Surfshark looked at drone operation laws in over 200 countries and developed a Drone Privacy Laws map to illustrate at a glance the current status of drone laws around the world.  They assigned each country a category status based on its legislation as of October 2020 and found that drone regulation in each country generally fell into one of seven categories:

  • Outright ban
  • Effective ban
  • Restrictions Apply (such as drone registration or licensing, additional observers required, no commercial usage etc.)
  • Visual line of sight required
  • Experimental visual line of sight (experiments where drones fly beyond the line of sight are allowed)
  • Unrestricted (when flying away from private property and airports, under 500 ft/150metres height and with drones weighing less than 250g)
  • No drone-related legislation

On their site here, you can look at the entire World map (a full-size view is available here), or view by areas of the World (e.g., Europe, North America, etc.).  It’s a terrific resource!

It’s only a matter of time before we see cases involving drone use by law enforcement or discovery of drone videos, etc.  Not to mention criminal cases against drone operators, like this one against a man in Los Angeles, who flew his drone into a LAPD helicopter that was responding to a crime scene in Hollywood.  Whoops.

So, what do you think?  Did you know that there was a resource that keeps track of drone laws?  You do now! Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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