Unmanned Air Vehicles

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 20th March 2014.

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Photo of Tom Watson Tom Watson Labour, West Bromwich East

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 25 February 2014, Official Report, column 287W on unmanned air vehicles, if he will publish a full list of all unmanned air vehicles systems used by those agencies; how many such systems have been acquired for use by those agencies; and what his Department's policy is on the storage and use of data obtained by such systems. [R]

Photo of Dan Rogerson Dan Rogerson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Core DEFRA has not acquired or used unmanned air vehicle systems. The Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science have acquired two fixed wing Quest 200 vehicles. The Royal Botanic Gardens have acquired a Flysense Ebee fixed wing aircraft.

The Food and Environment Research Agency, Environment Agency, Natural England and the Royal Botanic Gardens have all used and trialled vehicles operated by commercial suppliers, including a Trimble Gatewing, a DJI S800 Spreading Wings, a Swinglet and an Albotix Intl Aibot X6 Hexacopter.

DEFRA has a range of policies and guidance in place to ensure secure and effective management of data obtained from various sources including unmanned air vehicle systems. The vehicles are not gathering information that identifies individuals. The following guidance note has been issued.

Guidance note issued to relevant DEFRA network staff on Data Protection aspects of unmanned air vehicles

Current Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS) capability and use in the DEFRA network is for still and not video images. These images are obtained from a vertical overhead angle Image resolution and the overhead angle of the images means individuals cannot be identified. Neither can other sensitive personal data, such as car number plates. RPAS is used on the DEFRA estate, over third party property with the owner's permission, and in areas where the owner or occupier is unknown.

Where RPAS is used over the DEFRA estate, personal data is not captured. Where RPAS is used to capture images away from the estate, the data captured should be considered to be personal data, as defined by the DPA, if the land is owned or rented by natural, living persons. This is because it contains information about personal property, such as types of crops growing at a specific location, which can be linked to a natural person.

This type of data is considered low sensitivity.

DEFRA provides guidance on the Data Protection Act's 8 data protection principles (DPPs) in part I of schedule 1 to the DPA. Where images relate to land where the owner or occupier is unknown, the fair processing requirement-informing subjects of personal data, could be difficult to comply with. In such cases, this requirement could be achieved by placing a relevant fair processing notice on the DEFRA/agency website, but all reasonable measures must be taken so far as is practicable to inform each individual land owner or tenant.

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