Industry Creates Voluntary Best Practices for U.S. Drone Operators

Through meetings organized by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) stakeholders have come to a consensus on voluntary best practices for privacy, transparency and accountability of commercial and recreational drones.

In February of last year, the Obama administration first directed the NTIA to convene the group. According to the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) – a Washington, D.C., think tank that seeks to advance responsible data practices – these best practices are intended to encourage operators to use drone technology in a responsible, ethical and respectful way. FPF says the practices offer enough flexibility to support innovative uses of UAS but, at the same time, provide firm privacy standards.

According to the NTIA’s report, some of the practices the group came up with include as follows:

  • “Inform others of your UAS;
  • Show care when operating UAS or collecting and storing covered data;
  • Limit the use and sharing of covered data;
  • Secure covered data; and
  • Monitor and comply with evolving federal, state and local UAS laws.”

NTIA notes that “what qualifies as a practicable and reasonable effort to provide prior notice [of your UAS] will depend on operators’ circumstances and the context of the UAS operation.” For instance, a hobbyist may not be required to notify anyone in the area, but a real estate photographer may be required to make a neighbor aware of the future operations.

In addition, says FPF, the practices acknowledge that the principles are qualified by the understanding that they are to be implemented as “reasonable” and “practical” – in order to allow flexibility for smaller operators, hobbyists or circumstances where compliance would be impractical.

The Small UAV Coalition, which participated in the group, says it commends the Obama administration for opting to provide a forum to develop the practices through a collaborative, industry-led initiative – rather than through a lengthy rulemaking process or mandatory standards that raise First Amendment concerns, the coalition explains.

Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which also participated in the process, states, “Rather than create a complicated patchwork of new laws to address privacy, AUVSI encourages states and municipalities to allow commercial operators to adopt these uniform, federal privacy best practices. Clear, consistent, national frameworks, such as this, are critical for the timely and safe integration of UAS into the national airspace.”

FPF has created an additional summary of the best practices to help educate drone operators. For the full NTIA report, click here.


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