UNMANNED aircraft used to spy on enemies in war zones are now being deployed to monitor private and public property and to perv on unsuspecting Queenslanders.
Unregistered and unlicensed drones costing as little as $800 on the internet are being used to beam back spy video of women on beaches and areas ordinarily hidden from prying eyes. Legitimate operators want the authorities to ground the rogue drones but the privacy commissioner says there are no rules in his armoury to take them down.
Queensland's acting Privacy Commissioner Lemm Ex, who told The Courier-Mail he expected more drones to be used in the state for legitimate crime detection, urban planning and search and rescue, said he could not stop private rogue operators.
"There is no privacy law in Australia that will deal with one neighbour using a drone to survey another," Mr Ex said. "There may be non-privacy laws which apply but it remains that the use of drones by individuals is not currently regulated by privacy law. And anybody with $1000 can deploy a surveillance system."
Legitimate companies and agencies, such as police and mining and power companies, are also using the technology.
"Anecdotally there is strong consideration for the use of drones in Queensland for everything from surf lifesavers to patrol Queensiand beaches to specific crime-fighting activities," Mr Ex said. "One of the reasons why drones could be an attractive option for agencies is that the technology is both now eminently affordable and relatively sophisticated.
"Where drones differ slightly from the now familiar fixed camera surveillance systems is their potential for short one-off surveillance and the fact that geography is no boundary.
"There is an easier capacity for drones to survey what has traditionally been considered as personal spaces."
He said if government agencies used drones they would have to comply with the Information Privacy Act. Eric de Saint Quentin of Aerial Pix said, drones were being abused by unlicensed operators who were buying them over the internet.
"People are flying UAS... and are not qualified. Some are using them on women sunbaking at the beach," he said.
He said his company conducted surveillance in the mining and power industries.
A spokesman for CASA said action could be taken against unlicensed drone operators but evidence was needed. CASA requires a drone operator to have a controller's certification. Drones cannot be used for recreational use.