Surveillance Law: Drones, Dash Cams, Helmet Cams, Body Worn Video and CCTV

New surveillance technologies are making it easier than ever for people to monitor and record their surroundings. It could be a cyclist using a helmet cam to report dangerous driving. A doorman using a body cam to record any aggressive or insulting behaviour. Or a drone pilot taking aerial videos of their local area.

Whatever the reason, users of new surveillance technologies need to make sure their activities are legal. In the wake of the government launching a new surveillance strategy, here’s an overview of:

 Drone law

Dash cam law

Helmet cam law

Body Worn Video (BWV) law 

CCTV law 

The SC Code


Drone Law (Drone Code)

In the last few years, the popularity of drones has exploded. To ensure drone pilots are flying safely, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recently released the Drone Code. The main points of the Drone Code are:

Keep your drone in sight at all times

Don’t fly above 400ft (120m)

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions every time you fly

Fly no closer than 150ft (50m) from people and properties

Fly no closer than 500ft (150m) from crowds and built up areas. Don’t overfly

Stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields

Legal responsibility lies with the drone pilot. Failure to fly responsibly could result in a criminal prosecution. It is an offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft. Doing so could land you in prison for five years.

Drone pilots cannot fly wherever they like. Many parks have a “no model aircraft” policy – which includes drones. All of London’s Royal Parks, for example, do not permit drone flying, though many of the commons – including Hampstead Heath, Blackheath and Clapham Common – do. There are several apps (such as NATS Drone Assist, B4UFLY and Drone Zones) which show you where it’s okay to fly.

When a drone is fitted with a camera, flyers need to bear in mind of the Data Protection Act and CCTV Code of Practice. To avoid breaching privacy rules, the ICO recommends that you:

Let people know before you start recording

Consider your surroundings – e.g., don’t record inside someone’s home or through a window

Plan your flight carefully to avoid places where you may breach someone’s privacy

Keep images safe and secure, and delete them as soon as they are not needed

 Do not share images which could have harmful consequences

A few other things to remember:

Currently you do not need to register a drone – though ministers are looking to change this soon

Drone insurance is available for around £35 per year from different providers

If you’re flying a drone for commercial purposes, or if you wish to operate your drone outside the limits set out in the Drone Code, you need to get a permission


Dash Cam Law

Dash cams are an excellent way for drivers to record any incidents that happen on the road, and are being used increasingly in court to prove someone’s guilt or innocence. Because of the clear, visual evidence they provide, insurers are even beginning to offer discounts to drivers with dash cams fitted.

However, drivers may be breaking the law if they do not position the camera properly or if they install an accompanying LED screen.

According to the Road Traffic Act 1998, obscuring the front or rear windscreens is an offence. Dash cam drivers can stay on the right side of the law by:

Not installing a suction-mounted camera on the majority of the windscreen

Not allowing any part of the device – camera, cradle, suction cups and wires – to intrude more that 4cm into the wiper arc of the windscreen

Not allowing any part of the device – camera, cradle, suction cups and wires – to intrude more that 1cm into the “red zone”, which comprises the driver’s view.

Some dash cams also come with an accompanying LED screen. According to the Road Vehicles Regulations 1986, it is illegal for the screen to be switched on when it’s in the driver’s view at any time while driving. This means they need to be covered, switched off or positioned out of the driver’s sight when the car is moving.


Helmet Cam Law

Helmet cams are popular with cyclists and are often used to settle disputes between bike riders and other road users. Properly fitted helmet cams are completely legal.

In the UK, it is legal to film people without their permission if they are in a public place. Which means that cyclists are free to film so long as they comply with the Data Protection Act and the CCTV Code of Practice. This includes not persistently filming one person (harassment) or deliberately filming on private property.

When submitting helmet cam footage, cyclists should be aware that, to be used in court, it will need to be accompanied with a witness statement and be downloadable to a CD with a certificate (countersigned by a solicitor) stating that it had not been tampered with.

Though many cyclists upload clips filmed on their helmet cams to YouTube or other social media sites, it’s best not to share footage if you intend to use it in court. It is not necessary to blur out faces or registration plates if you do decide to share footage publicly.


Body Worn Video (Bodycam) Law

Most commonly used by police officers, Body Worn Video (BWV) hit the headlines in 2005 when Devon and Cornwall Police trialled the technology. Now common in Britain’s police forces, bodycams are starting to become more popular in the security industry, too.

According to the SIA, individuals who view footage recorded by bodycams are likely to fall within the definition of public space surveillance (CCTV) activity. This is because bodycams are most often worn by people providing a service under contract. Other than to identify a trespasser or to protect property, anyone using a bodycam to monitor the activities of a member of the public in a public or private place or to identify an individual will require a license.

As with all other surveillance technologies, those using bodycams need to abide by the Data Protection Act. If you intend on wearing a bodycam for reasons not related to employment, the legislation is the same as for helmet cams. However, since you’re likely to enter private premises on foot, you will need to be more vigilant about turning your camera off when appropriate.



Individuals can use CCTV to protect commercial and private property. To comply with the Data Protection Act, those with CCTV installed need to:

• Put up a sign letting people know CCTV is being used and why

• Provide images within 40 days to anyone they’ve recorded (you can charge up to £10 for this)

Share images with the authorities if they ask for them

Keep images only so long as they need them

Position CCTV to ensure minimal intrusion into other people’s privacy

Ensure that the date and time are correct

 Keep recordings secure and access to a minimum

The ICO provides comprehensive advice for anyone operating or seeking to install CCTV technology.


The SC Code

The UK’s new surveillance strategy includes the SC Code which outlines 12 guiding principles that every organisation or person using surveillance technology should adhere to. Whether your flying a drone, using a dash-, head-, or bodycam, or operating CCTV, the 12 principles of the SC Code apply to you.

1) Use of a surveillance camera system must always be for a specified purpose which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need.

2) The use of a surveillance camera system must take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy, with regular reviews to ensure its use remains justified.

3) There must be as much transparency in the use of a surveillance camera system as possible, including a published contact point for access to information and complaints.

4) There must be clear responsibility and accountability for all surveillance camera system activities including images and information collected, held and used.

5) Clear rules, policies and procedures must be in place before a surveillance camera system is used, and these must be communicated to all who need to comply with them.

6) No more information should be stored than that which is strictly required for the stated purpose of a surveillance camera system, and such images and information should be deleted once their purposes have been discharged.

7) Access to retained images and information should be restricted and there must be clearly defined rules on who can gain access and for what purpose such access is granted; the disclosure of images and information should only take place when it is necessary for such a purpose or for law enforcement purposes.

8) Surveillance camera system operators should consider any approved operational, technical and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose and work to meet and maintain those standards.

9) Surveillance camera system images and information should be subject to appropriate security measures to safeguard against unauthorised access and use.

10) There should be effective review and audit mechanisms to ensure legal requirements, policies and standards are complied with in practice, and regular reports should be published.

11) When the use of a surveillance camera system is in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and there is a pressing need for its use, it should then be used in the most effective way to support public safety and law enforcement with the aim of processing images and information of evidential value.

12) Any information used to support a surveillance camera system which compares against a reference database for matching purposes should be accurate and kept up to date.

Churchill Support Services is a leading provider of UK security guards. We deploy SIA-licensed security guards to ensure that our clients’ property is properly protected, and provide expert solutions throughout the UK.

Emily Macaulay

Director of Sales

Emily is responsible for business growth and account development via new sales. She leads the Business Development teams through strategic goals and objectives in line with business targets and strategy. Emily is a friendly, approachable and a respected senior manager at Churchill who always strives to deliver service excellence.