Game of Drones
The use of drones may be beneficial to the Church work, but there are concerns which we should take seriously.
A drone, as described by the Queensland Office of the Information Commissioner, is an “unmanned aerial vehicle, which can be outfitted with sophisticated camera surveillance equipment. UAVs are controlled remotely by an operator or by an on board or central computer.”
Fun fact: We’ve already had enquiries from Church organisations regarding drone use and their insurance and liability obligations. Kudos to them for remembering to talk to us first!
The popularity of drones for both commercial and recreational use is experiencing a fast, steep trajectory. Risk Management Magazine reports that in the next ten years “drones will create up to 100,000 new jobs and about $82 billion in economic activity worldwide.
The list of potential uses is extensive including crime prevention, event management, bushfire detection and management, search and rescue, infrastructure monitoring, natural disaster management, environmental monitoring, scientific research, urban planning, product delivery, film and television, and agriculture. Just to name a few. Utilising drones for commercial and recreational use is not about to disappear.
Epic filming or epic failing?
What is the one thing that concerns most people about drones? Survey says: Invasion of privacy. As a Church organisation it will become necessary to ask, what situations in our context, would a drone flight filming invade privacy? At a camp? At a school? During church services?
While privacy is a concern, the Church also needs to look at safety to prevent personal injury. As drones are still a new thing, their use can be alarming, frightening and dangerous to some. As an example, a participant in a sporting event was injured by a drone filming the event – the injured party says she was hit by the drone, the drone operator says the participant was startled by it. Who’s to blame will be up to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The above example, however, should cause Church organisations to ask how they will protect or alert participants and attendees if drones will be in use during an event. Apart from crash landing onto people, drones can damage third party property, plus a drone itself can be damaged. Currently, there is NO public liability or third party property cover available to the Church for drones and extra risks property cover only covers the drone when it is NOT in use.
Aviation Law. It’s a thing.
In Australia, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has laws in place outlining how drones can and cannot be operated. (In New Zealand it is the CAA) Church organisations using drones should be aware of the aviation laws regarding drone use and ensure they are not breached by the operators of drones – whether or not they are church-owned drones, or whether a Church organisation has hired a drone operator. Who is liable if aviation laws are broken? It’s still a grey area.
Beware that drone footage uploaded to social media sites such as YouTube can be used as evidence of aviation law breaches.
Church organisations with an interest in using drones as part of their ministry need to take seriously the risks that come with their use but also check that:
- They are well-versed in the current aviation laws that regulate both commercial and recreational use of drones and UAVs and ensure that any drone operators (both hired and volunteer) are compliant in those laws.
- The use of drone filming is communicated to all participants of Church-run activities and that the safety and privacy of everyone is respected.
- Adequate and correct cover is in place to protect church-owned drones, remembering that cover is only available when the drone is not in use and that NO public liability or third party property cover is available at present.
As always, if you have any questions, please be in touch. We’re here to help.