Know Before You Fly Campaign Integrates AirMap Airspace Information

Wildfire Flight Restrictions, Airport Airspace and Other Information Now Freely Available To Drone Operators

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:

Drone Flight Restriction Information By AirMap

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.

AirMap AirSpace Info Firefighting Restriction For Drones

Check it out!


California’s Drone Trespass Bill Goes Too Far

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:

  1. The operator knowingly violated the landowner’s rights, and 
  2. The operator captured any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff, and 
  3. That image or recording of the plaintiff showed them “engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity”, and
  4. 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.


Drones And Agriculture: Presentation At The Integrated Pest Management Symposium

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.”

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 the Future of Aerial Surveillance

UC Davis Law LogoTomorrow at UC Davis School of Law, I will be presenting my paper “Domestic Drones and the Future of Aerial Surveillance.”  The event will begin at 12 noon and Professor Elizabeth Joh will be providing commentary.  The event is open to the public, however the hosts are requesting pre-registration here.

Here is an excerpt from the paper abstract:

The use of drones systems raises serious questions about modern conceptions of privacy. This article examines the constitutional doctrine related to aerial surveillance and technology, and finds that current doctrine is unlikely to prevent the use of unmanned systems. The article proposes a series of legislative solutions intended to place surveillance by drones on the same legal footing as surveillance by manned aircraft — a status quo solution. The paper then analyzes the circumstances under which that new status quo may break down, and proposes remedies that could be implemented depending upon the nature of the emergent privacy harms.


School of Law’s Greg McNeal Awarded Grant For Research On America’s Targeted Killing Policy

Greg McNeal Research GrantGreg McNeal, associate professor of law, has received $165,000 from the Carthage Foundation to research the U.S. practice of targeted killings. The research and resulting book will educate policymakers and the public about America’s use of lethal force against suspected terrorists.

Professor McNeal’s research is grounded in the idea that when the United States government kills people on traditional and non-traditional battlefields, bureaucrats play a key role in the killings yet have little visibility into the analytical processes that precede their final decisions. The book will be based on archival and field research and will explain, examine, and offer recommendations for enhancing the success, accountability, and effectiveness of U.S. policies conducted pursuant to America’s new way of warfare.

The research builds upon previous work conducted by Professor McNeal for his article “Targeted Killings and Accountability,” which was featured in the Georgetown Law Journal and won the 2013 Article of the Year award from the American National Section of the International Association of Penal Law. Professor McNeal also recently appeared on MSNBC to discuss the FAA’s selection of civilian drone testing sites in nine states.

Professor McNeal is an expert in international security with an active scholarly agenda focused on national security, warfare, surveillance, and new technologies. Since arriving at Pepperdine, he has twice been called upon to testify before Congress on matters related to national security and frequently consults with elected officials regarding proposed legislation. He recently consulted with and contributed to the development of two U.S. military field manuals aimed at preventing harm to civilians in conflict. He teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, and courses related to national security law and international affairs.

A Discussion About Civilian Drones, Privacy and FAA Test Sites

Professor Gregory McNeal appeared on MSNBC to discuss the FAA’s selection of civilian drone testing sites in nine states.  During the six minute interview McNeal discussed the positive uses of drones, and some of the privacy concerns raised by drone critics.  One of his articles in Forbes was excerpted during the interview and was a central part of the discussion with MSNBC host Craig Melvin.  Professor McNeal has testified before Congress about the integration of civilian drones into U.S. airspace and has written about military drones in an award winning article forthcoming in the Georgetown Law Journal.  His research about military drones is funded by a $175,000 grant and will be published as a book next year.

McNeal Testimony Regarding Drones Privacy and Surveillance

I recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee regarding drones and domestic surveillance.  Pepperdine ran a story on the testimony which I’ve pasted below.


Associate Professor of Law Gregory McNeal testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary on May 17 regarding the use of unmanned aerial systems, known commonly as drones, for surveillance purposes inside the U.S. Professor McNeal, an expert in national security law and policy, cautioned against the use of broadly worded warrant requirements as a tool to protect privacy or public safety. Instead, he recommended surveillance legislation that would require more transparency in the use of these systems by law enforcement.

McNeal’s testimony offered various considerations for pending legislation, including arguing against blanket prohibitions on the use of drones for the collection of evidence or information unless authorized by a warrant, and the argument that broadly worded use restrictions that prohibit use of evidence gathered by drones exceed the parameters of the Fourth Amendment and may not serve to protect privacy. Furthermore, McNeal argued that Congress should eschew drone specific legislation and instead look to legislating what places are entitled to privacy protection and clearly define search terminology including terms such as surveillance and private property.

“What’s interesting about working in national security is that there is a foreign affairs and international law aspect to my work that was one strand of my research, drones being used on battlefields,” McNeal said. “But, national security also encompasses domestic law enforcement, homeland security, and all manner of government surveillance and tracking. Those issues also relate to my teaching, specifically criminal procedure and criminal law.”

McNeal noted that his writing on the topic began when policymakers became interested in how drone technology would be used in the United States and what the legal implications of such use might be. That writing, he said, was in the form of short essays that have appeared in Forbes and longer draft papers that will soon be published law review articles. The writing provided an opportunity for McNeal to speak at the Association of Unmanned Vehicles International national conference.

“This was the biggest gathering of manufacturers in the aerospace industry and my panel was focused on privacy law and surveillance,” McNeal said. “From that experience I began hearing from legislators at the federal level and from various state governments, to the point where about once every other week over the past year I’ve been fielding a phone call or an email from someone asking me to comment on draft legislation. All of that came to a head last week with my invitation to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.”

McNeal is a professor at Pepperdine University where his research and teaching focus on national security law and policy, criminal law and procedure and international law. He previously served as Assistant Director of the Institute for Global Security, co-directed a transnational counterterrorism grant program for the U.S. Department of Justice, and served as a legal consultant to the Chief Prosecutor of the Department of Defense Office of Military Commissions on matters related to the prosecution of suspected terrorists held in the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He is a Forbes contributor where he writes a column about law, policy and security.