Flying Above The Law: Legal Issues Surrounding the Domestic Use of Drones

Keynote Address: Drones and the Future of Aviation: Key Issues in Law and Policy

On February 3, 2017 I will be delivering the keynote address at the Campbell Law Review Symposium.  The symposium title is Flying Above The Law: Legal Issues Surrounding the Domestic Use of Drones.  My remarks are entitled Drones and the Future of Aviation: Key Issues in Law and Policy.  

Campbell has lined up a great mixture of practitioners, academics, industry and others.  Here is the line up:

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Using Drones To Keep Our Cities Smart And Safe

On Thursday, January 19, I appeared on a panel with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and others.  The panel description is below:

Keeping our cities safe and leveraging smart technologies go hand in hand. One such technology is the use of drones. Drones have the potential to change the way local government delivers city services, particularly as their technology advances. Could drones transform firefighting, environmental monitoring, and disaster management? How might we ensure cities have local authority to determine how this technology can best be used to serve residents and improve service delivery? Privacy is critical; how do we address data concerns? What opportunities arise as the job market transforms due to these innovations? In addition, we will also hear about an exciting national partnership born in San Francisco that is expanding across the country to help transform innovation in cities.

Participants:

Chair: Edwin Lee, Mayor of San Francisco
Michael Huerta, Administrator of the FAA
John Giles, Mayor of Mesa
Greg McNeal, Co-Founder of AirMap and Professor at Pepperdine University
Kamran Saddique, CEO & President of City Innovate Foundation

 

What Can Municipalities Do About Drones?

League of California Cities Annual Conference

On October 7, 2016 I’ll be presenting at the League of California Cities Annual Conference about drones and how cities can effectively regulate their use while still allowing for their benefits.  From the panel description:

The FAA estimates 1 million drones were sold during the 2015 holiday season. Learn about the effects of the 2015 FAA drone registration regulations and the spring 2016 commercial drone regulations on municipalities. Focus on what municipalities can and cannot do to combat privacy, noise, and nuisance issues raised by small drones through the types of ordinances allowed and not allowed due to FAA pre-emption. Discussion will also surround how these regulations affect municipal airports.

McNeal To Moderate White House Drone Policy Session

White House Office Of Science And Technology Policy Event Will Focus On Future Regulations

Dr. Gregory S. McNeal was selected by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to co-moderate a policy workshop discussion with participants from academia, industry and government.

The daylong event will begin at the White House and will then move to the Newseum for drone flight demonstrations and policy discussions.  The event, billed as “The First-Ever OSTP Workshop on Drones and the Future of Aviation” will:

bring together government, academic, and industry stakeholders to discuss both the near and long-term implications of unmanned aircraft as an emergent technology; issues related to airspace integration; the potential of unmanned aircraft to enable high-impact research, create new jobs and industries, save lives, and improve the way government agencies and companies do business; and potential ways to further address safety, security, and privacy in this emerging field.

Dr. McNeal’s session will focus on issues related to the future of U.S. drone regulations. McNeal and a group of government facilitators will help identify challenge areas related to regulation and issues where industry leadership or cross-sector collaboration will prove useful in enabling small UAS integration.  Discussion topics will range from immediate-term implementation challenges for Part 107 and other near-term rulemakings, waiver reform, technical solutions for notice of operations, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, nighttime flight, operations over people, and more.

Dr. McNeal is Professor of Law & Public Policy at Pepperdine University School of Law and is co-founder of AirMap which provides safety solutions for drones.  Dr. McNeal was previously appointed by the Secretary of Transportation to serve on the UAS Registration Task Force and was appointed by the FAA Administrator to serve on the Micro UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee.  In addition to his work in support of policymaking, Dr. McNeal serves as Chair of the Consumer Technology Association’s Industry Standards Working Group on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (R6 WG 23) and as a voting member of the ASTM technical committee creating scientific standards to govern unmanned aircraft and their operation.

A report conveying the event’s proceedings will be produced by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation and will be released to the public to inform policymaking.

Drones and the Future of Aerial Surveillance

The George Washington Law Review

George_Washington_Law_Review_Drones_and_Privacy

Drones and the Future of Aerial Surveillance, George Washington Law Review.  

On February 15, 2015 the FAA announced historic regulations that for the first time in American history will allow small aircraft without onboard pilots — drones — to fly in the national airspace. Legal and technological developments have thus made it all but certain that drones will be a catalyst for new ways of thinking about privacy and surveillance. This is especially the case because the drones that the FAA has approved for operation in the national airspace (small aircraft under 55 pounds) are the exact type of drones that local law enforcement will be most likely to acquire and use. Thus, the battle over privacy and aerial surveillance will be fought in statehouses throughout the country. This article seeks to frame future discussions about how states will handle the privacy issues associated with aerial surveillance.

The article takes the counterintuitive position that technology may make unmanned aerial surveillance more protective of privacy than manned surveillance. It further argues that scholars and legislators should move beyond a warrant-based, technology centric approach to protecting privacy from aerial surveillance. Such an approach is unworkable, counterproductive, and may stifle efforts to enact more privacy protective legislative regimes. Instead, this article proposes that legal reforms should focus on excluding low altitude flights and surveillance coupled with imposing limits on persistent surveillance, requiring enhanced accountability procedures for data retention and access, and creating new transparency, accountability and oversight measures.

A Look At Privacy Rights After OC Man Destroys Drone Flying Near His Home

Today I appeared on KPCC’s AirTalk to discuss an incident in Orange County where a drunk man destroyed a drone valued at $1350.

Here is a video of the incident:


Destruction of property in California is a crime, and is a felony when the property is valued at more than $400.

This drone was being operated on a public street by LuckySeven company.  There is a lot of confusion among many regarding which laws (Federal vs State vs Local) apply to drones.  In this case, the intoxicated man was not being harmed in any way, and yet, took it upon himself to maliciously destroy property belonging to another person. (more…)

Surveillance And the City To Be Presented At University of Denver Sturm College Of Law

CitySurveillanceMcNealI will be presenting my paper “Surveillance and the City” at the 3rd Annual Local Government Law Works-In-Progress Workshop at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law.

Read more for the paper abstract: (more…)

Drones and Aerial Surveillance Listed On 11 Top Ten Download Lists

DronesandPrivacyWhile it’s not a big deal, it’s nice to see that my paper Drones and Aerial Surveillance: Considerations for Legislators has been receiving quite a bit of attention from different audiences, making it onto multiple SSRN Top Ten lists.  Here they are:

Here is the paper abstract:

The looming prospect of expanded use of unmanned aerial vehicles, colloquially known as drones, has raised understandable concerns for lawmakers. Those concerns have led some to call for legislation mandating that nearly all uses of drones be prohibited unless the government has first obtained a warrant. Privacy advocates have mounted a lobbying campaign that has succeeded in convincing thirteen states to enact laws regulating the use of drones by law enforcement, with eleven of those thirteen states requiring a warrant before the government may use a drone. The campaigns mounted by privacy advocates oftentimes make a compelling case about the threat of pervasive surveillance, but the legislation is rarely tailored in such a way to prevent the harm that advocates fear. In fact, in every state where legislation was passed, the new laws are focused on the technology (drones) not the harm (pervasive surveillance). In many cases, this technology-centric approach creates perverse results, allowing the use of extremely sophisticated pervasive surveillance technologies from manned aircraft, while disallowing benign uses of drones for mundane tasks like accident and crime scene documentation, or monitoring of industrial pollution and other environmental harms. Legislators should reject a warrant-based, technology-centric approach as it is unworkable and counterproductive. Instead, legislators should follow a property rights-centric approach, coupled with limits on persistent surveillance, data retention procedures, transparency and accountability measures and a recognition of the possibility that technology may make unmanned aerial surveillance more protective of privacy than manned surveillance.