Drone privacy findings disputed

THE director of a Ballarat business which specialises in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles has disputed the findings of a federal parliamentary committee report which says drones and other UAV’s could pose a serious risk to privacy.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles director Mathew Herbert and maintenance controller Leon Dwyer with one of their multi-rotor drones. 
PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles director Mathew Herbert and maintenance controller Leon Dwyer with one of their multi-rotor drones. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

The report, released on Monday, says the existing complexity of privacy law and the difficulty of regulating the emerging technology are creating challenges which need to be considered.

“Remotely-piloted aircraft have the potential to pose a serious threat to Australians’ privacy,” its report says, adding the situation is not helped by the complexity of Australian privacy law.

Matthew Herbert, director of Ballarat business Victorian UAS Training, which has been licensed to commercially fly drones, vehemently contested the findings of the report.

His business constructs unassisted aerial vehicles and will soon open courses to teach people how to operate them. 

Mr Herbert said while he wasn’t surprised by the report, he considered the use of drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles breaching privacy laws to spy to be “a complete non-issue”. 

“Basically, our stance on operating UAV’s pertains to the idea that if you are going to spy on somebody, there are far less ostentatious ways to do it,” Mr Herbert said. “I would be far more concerned with the cameras found in mobile phones than I would be by the use of UAVs.”

Mr Herbert said the cameras found in mobile phone devices were less obvious, able to zoom in from hundreds of metres away discreetly and were inaudible when compared to the noise UAVs made when they were being operated. 

“You can hear UAVs, you can easily see and identify them and you have to be extremely close to people to be able spy on them with this type of technology,” he said. “It is not an efficient technology to be used to observe people.”

“To get close enough to somebody to get any images, you would hear the UAV well before you saw it or it was looking inside your window,” he said.

The House of Representative committee chairman, Nationals MP George Christensen, said the drone industry was growing rapidly.

There was a need to protect Australians from “malicious drone use” while permitting this dynamic new industry to grow, Mr Christensen said.

with AAP

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