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“LOOK! Up in the Sky…!”

Posted by Goldberg Noone Abraham | Aug 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

Goldberg Law on Legal Concerns for Drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles)

New FAA Laws & Regulations for Drones take Effect Today

Today is the day that the new Federal Aviation Administration's rules written to govern the flying of drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, (UAV's), go into effect.

The drone industry is experiencing explosive growth, and the government saw the need to quickly step in and try to apply some rules and regulations regarding who can fly them, where they can be operated and certain restrictions and limitations on their intended use.

It's easy to envision just how this cool new technology will be a huge asset to countless business enterprises. Real estate agents use them to capture dramatic videos of their properties, and many tourist destinations have discovered drone video is the ultimate way to depict their coastal town or resort golf course. Locally, a solar energy design business in Lee County will be using their $1,600 drone to help design and install rooftop solar energy systems. (Read the story here).

But even though the FAA's new rules take effect today, there is still a long way to go in the efforts to ensure drones are operated by those who receive specific training and certification, regulate the types of drones that are allowed in the sky and ensure the safety and privacy of people on the ground.

The FAA has also enlisted the country's space program, NASA, to get a handle on what effect large numbers of drones in the air will do to the nation's air traffic. It has been reported that NASA is preparing a research study for coming up with the optimum performance standards and guidelines for business's that will be using drones for commercial activities. It doesn't take great foresight to envision a pizza brought to your house via a drone, or your latest online purchase dropped on your doorstep.

Typically, our government's speed and ability to stay abreast of emerging technology means it will be a long time before NASA even presents their findings to the FAA. At a ‘drone conference' held by NASA's Airspace Operations and Safety Program, that agency's director told attendees they “hope to present their research before 2020”.

It should be pointed out that the director also estimated there would be approximately 7 million UAVs in the skies by then, with close to 3 million being used for commercial purposes.

In the meantime, while the FAA may be well-intentioned in the efforts to regulate the drone industry, there are several areas of concern when it comes to the law, and the legal ramifications affecting this new technology.

Eye in the Sky – Huge Potential for Abuse?

Just like any other area of business and new technology, the operation of a drone device opens up a hugs can of worms in the application of law. Here are just a few of the concerns that could come up:

  • Privacy – If someone is using a drone to capture images, what are the safeguards against filming someone or something that has not been authorized?
  • Personal Injury – Who becomes responsible for a drone that unexpectedly drops out of the sky, or drops its payload, and strikes someone on the ground?
  • Intellectual Property Rights – A drone could capture images of an inventor's or manufacturer's premises where a patented new product is being developed, or some protected technology is being tested.
  • Human Rights – The government is using drones on a huge scale already – do they have a legal right to film you or capture your image from the sky without your knowledge or permission? (Some high-tech drones are equipped with facial recognition software and infrared ‘night vision' capabilities).
  • Criminal Prosecution – If someone is using a drone to spy on, stalk or harass another individual, does that person have any legal recourse? (There are drones that are capable of intercepting or ‘wiretapping' conversations that were intended to be private).
  • Search & Seizure Laws / Fourth Amendment – What if a law enforcement agency uses a drone to video someone's property, where there may be illegal activity or suspected stolen merchandise; do they need a warrant to do that?

“Where No Man Has Gone Before”

Just like Star Trek, drone technology and the rights of those who operate them versus the rights of those who may be being videotaped promises the development of an intriguing legal landscape. There are so many unanswered questions that will come up, and the future looks rife for precedent-setting legal cases and decisions.

The attorneys at Goldberg & Noone understand that any emerging technology requires extensive education as to the extent and application of law. We pride ourselves on helping our clients protect their full legal rights, and our expertise on taking action against a person or entity which has violated those rights.

Drones are cool, no question about it. But there are likely as many unscrupulous individuals out there already planning to use them for some type of illegal activity as there are legitimate folks who want to make money in this exciting new era.

Look to the attorneys at Goldberg Noone Abraham to help you know the difference.

The full contents of the Federal Aviation Administration's Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (Part 107), can be seen here.

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