Regulatory agencies responsible for monitoring drone usage are promoting a key message of "don't be creepy" as a basis to operating the aircrafts legally.

As complaints against drone operators and the invasion of people's privacy increase, Police, the Privacy Commissioner and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are working on ways to educate and enforce operators to use the devices more responsibly.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said drone use is becoming something of a preoccupation.

"We are keen to try and figure out how to influence drone operators to use these devices more responsibly," he said.


"I think that we have got to start thinking about ways to influence people's behaviour.

"We did this last year in collaboration with police and the CAA and created some material to be distributed to retailers when they sell drones, so that operators can see the minimum expectations of them.

"The top line on that material we have produced says 'don't be creepy'."

Edwards said the Privacy Commissioner has little jurisdiction when it comes to investigating hobbyist drone operators, but commercial drone operators do fall under the Privacy Act.

Their website states that an agency needs to consider what the drone will be filming and whether that information is necessary for it to carry out its work.

It also needs to consider how it will inform the public that they are being recorded and how the recorded footage is being kept safe and secure.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards advice to drone operators is
Privacy Commissioner John Edwards advice to drone operators is "don't be creepy". Photo / Mark Mitchell

"If it is just a hobbyist, unless they are doing something which could be considered highly offensive then it is unlikely to be subject to the privacy act," Edwards said.

"Now by any standards, somebody who is using a drone to look in the window of a multi-storey apartment building is approaching the creep factor."


But both kinds of drone operators, that is a commercial operator and an individual hobbyist, are also subject to Civil Aviation Rules, he said.

The CAA, which is responsible for investigating inappropriate drone usage, said the rules require people who want to fly drones over private land to get permission from the owners or residents beforehand.

The rules, detailed in Part 101 and Part 102 of the Civil Aviation Act, also address not operating an aircraft that is 25kg or larger without certification, flying only in daylight, adhering to airspace restrictions and minimising hazards to persons, property and other aircraft.

A CAA spokeswoman said they had received a total of 718 reported incidents involving drones, otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), since 2013.

From those reports, 192 were reported complaints of UAVs being flown over people's properties without consent.

The spokeswoman said when it finds rules have been breached, the CAA takes appropriate action - which could be a warning, a fine or prosecution.

Penalties for an individual flying over people or property without their consent range from $500 to $2500.

The spokeswoman said if someone believes a drone is breaching Civil Aviation Rules they should try to get as much information as possible about the drone and operator and report it to the CAA.

If they consider the drone is being flown with criminal intent, they should contact police immediately.

A Police spokesperson said frontline police staff are often required to respond to incidents causing a safety risk to persons, property or other aircraft.

"Police will respond and take all the details for forwarding to the CAA.

"If a [drone] is used in the commission of a criminal act, police may consider charging the operator with an appropriate criminal offence."

While the CAA could not provide timely statistics on how many of its reported incidents were resolved or actioned, Edwards said he was keen to look into whether action being taken was sufficient.

"Whether those rules are actually fit for purpose and are being enforced is something I think I need to have a look at and I am going to discuss this with the CAA," he said.

"One of the difficulties I have, and I assume the CAA would also have, is that there is no registration of the devices so it is very difficult to actually find out who is operating it and therefore have someone to investigate."

A CAA spokeswoman said they were monitoring the situation constantly and exploring more ways to educate and raise awareness among the UAV community about the rules.

She said if a safety case for drone registration was made, then the CAA would consider recommending this to government.

"At this stage no safety case has been made and we believe the cost of administering registration would outweigh the safety benefits."

* For more information go to the Civil Aviation Authority website. To report a drone incident email or call 0508 472 338.