The Geoffrey H. Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law and Pepperdine University School of Law present The 2015 Drone Entrepreneurship Conference.
Imagine the possibilities and explore new frontiers with tomorrow’s leaders in drone entrepreneurship. Special guest speaker Greg McNeal. Expert panels of speakers from startups, venture capitalists and leading law firms.
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.
I am pleased to announce the integration of AirMap’s airspace information into the Know Before You Fly campaign.
Know Before You Fly is an education campaign founded by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), and the Small UAV Coalition in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to educate prospective users about the safe and responsible operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
As excitement and enthusiasm continues to grow around UAS, and the regulatory framework continues to take shape, more consumers are looking to buy UAS for personal use and more businesses are looking to use UAS too. These prospective operators want to fly, and fly safely, but many don’t realize that, just because you can buy a UAS, doesn’t mean you can fly it anywhere, or for any purpose. Know Before You Fly provides prospective users with the information and guidance they need to fly safely and responsibly.
Now with AirMap airspace information, the campaign can do even more to ensure that fliers can fly in a safe and responsible fashion. As part of the campaign, AirMap is providing the following pieces of information:
As an example, you can see how AirMap provides live information about firefighting temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), ensuring that operators are aware of restrictions near wildfires.
Check it out!
California legislators are looking to tackle the perceived problem of drone trespasses with a modified version of a bill that was introduced earlier this year. Unfortunately they’ve gone too far in the most recent version of the proposed legislation.
This bill was originally a privacy bill, and it was innovative when it was first introduced. Because it was originally very narrowly tailored and focused on prohibiting trespasses in circumstances where a drone operator was violating a landowner’s expectation of privacy, it struck an appropriate balance between innovation and rights. The bill was narrow and careful in that it required plaintiffs to prove a series of elements to make their case. Requiring multiple elements of proof is important as it protects rights and guards against frivolous litigation.
Here is some of the original language from the preamble of the legislation when it was proposed earlier this year:
Existing law imposes liability for physical invasion of privacy, if a person knowingly enters onto the land of another without permission or otherwise commits a trespass in order to capture any image or recording of the plaintiff engaging in a private activity and the invasion is offensive to a reasonable person. (my emphasis in bold)
The key here is that the original bill created a cause of action only when someone was trespassing for a very specific purpose — to violate one’s privacy. The bill did this by modifying California’s existing physical invasion of privacy law. If the bill had stayed as proposed, to prove a violation would require a plaintiff to prove not only that the drone entered the airspace above a person’s property without their permission, but also all of the following things:
- The operator knowingly violated the landowner’s rights, and
- The operator captured any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff, and
- That image or recording of the plaintiff showed them “engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity”, and
- The invasion of privacy was “in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person.”
That’s a pretty sensible approach focused on privacy harms. All four elements have to be proven, which means we won’t see spurious or vexatious litigation because the bar to litigation is high enough that someone isn’t going to sue unless their privacy was truly violated. It also serves to protect First Amendment rights because it is narrowly tailored to address privacy harms, rather than being a broad ban on aerial imaging or the mere act of flying.
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…)
On March 24, 2015 I will be presenting “Drones And Agriculture: The Legal Framework.” The presentation will be part of the 8th Annual Integrated Pest Management Symposium in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The specific panel is part of a four part series that day, entitled “Advanced Technology for Precision IPM: Latest Developments with Examples from the Field and Legal Considerations.”
On March 18, Pepperdine School of Law professor Gregory S. McNeal will testify before the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency. The hearing is entitled “Unmanned Aerial System Threats: Exploring Security Implications and Mitigation Technologies.”
McNeal, recently named in a list of “Seven of the Most Influential Players in the Drone Industry” by Dronelife, will be speaking from his research and writing regarding the domestic use of non-military drones. He will acknowledge that while the emergence of unmanned aerial vehicles “raises understandable concerns that may require employment of mitigation technologies,” Congress should be cognizant of four issues before taking tangible steps: (more…)
Drone Life magazine has named me one of the “7 Most Influential Players In The Drone Industry” This is a fun honor, especially given the great names on the list. There are many others who could just as easily have been on this list, but I nevertheless appreciate being named.
Here is an excerpt from the piece:
The Drone Revolution is upon us. Every day there is a new headline. Every day someone starts a new company. People are flocking to this industry and it is creating a snowball effect of popularity and investments. But as with any rise in technology, there are certain ‘powers that be’ making the whole thing happen. Dronelife spoke to these players to help you put faces to names and get their take on the rise of the drone: (more…)
I 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…)
This Thursday I will be speaking at the University of Michigan Law School, the talk is titled “Drones and the Future: Innovation, Regulation and Policy.” The abstract and flier appear below.
Drones. They are filling the skies and may be delivering your next package. But what role do privacy and regulation play in the new brave new world?
Professor Greg McNeal is one of the leading experts on the use, regulation, and policy questions regarding drones in the public and private sectors. Come hear him speak on the topic.
Drones and the Future: Innovation, Regulation, and Privacy