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

 

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.

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.