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Drones and Data Protection

Researchers Involved

RA MLaw David Henseler

research areas

Mobile Systems
Society, Environment and History


2017 - 2020


  • A study in Denmark found that people who notice a drone in operation “try to ascertain its purpose and legitimacy”
  • According to the study “regulators need to think about ways to make it easy for people to understand what a drone is doing, if it is legitimate, and who is responsible”
  • Studies conducted in Switzerland, the US, Canada etc. resulted in similar findings
  • Application to Data Protection
    • Data subjects need to be able to identify the person processing their data
    • i.e. it must be possible to identify the drone pilot/drone operator

Focus on Enforcement

  • Drones are regularly equipped with at least one type of (visual) sensor
  • Drones are therefor regularly processing personal data
    The Swiss Constitution as well as the Swiss Data
  • Protection Act are applicable to data processing by means of drones
  • The identification of drone pilots is not possible at the moment

No Identification = No Enforcement

Background (I)

“Drone regulation” in Switzerland is currently under revision:

  • New „drone rules“ adopted by the EU in 2018
  • Switzerland will take over these rules, with effect in June 2020
  • Provisions regarding Registration, Remote Identification of Drones etc. will be introduced

Background (II)

Swiss Data Protection Act currently under revision

  • Influence of EU (GDPR) and Council of Europe (Convention 108)
  • Entry into force unclear as of now, possibly 2021 already
  • Goal (inter alia): Reinforcement of the rights of data subjects


  • Starting point: Swiss Constitution, namelyRight to Informational Self-Determination (informationelle Selbstbestimmung)
  • Analysis of new data protection provisions
  • Analysis of new rules for drones
  • Identification and discussion of possible solution for the “enforcement problem”
  • Draft legal provision solving (?) the “enforcement problem”

Project goal/result

Proposal of Legal Provision into Swiss Air Law linking Enforcement of Rights under Swiss Data Protection Law and the Registration etc. of Drone Pilots to ensure Identification.