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

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:

Flying Above the Law

Schedule of Events


7:30-8:30 a.m.
Registration and Breakfast

8:30–8:45 a.m.
Welcome and Opening Remarks

8:45–10:00 a.m.
North Carolina Legislation

The North Carolina panel will begin with an overview on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and the rules and operational best practices associated with the use of UASs.  It will then examine the approaches various other states have taken in their UAS legislation and compare and contrast those approaches to North Carolina’s current legislation.  Panelists will also evaluate the possibilities of future legislation and the costs and benefits of those proposed changes.  Lastly, the panel will discuss the Knowledge Test for UAS permits and the influence that North Carolina permit implementation may have on other states.

10:00–11:15 a.m.
Data Management and Privacy Issues

The data management and privacy panel will explore the implications of several privacy and security issues for UAS operations and various types of industry stakeholders.  In focusing on civil privacy and security implications of data collection, use, and distribution from a UAS platform, the panelists will discuss the intersection and interplay among the following: state and local laws and claims, the multi-stakeholder “Best Practices” guidance, FAA abstention, property rights, and multi-jurisdictional (including cross-border) challenges.  The panelists will also consider the desirability, or lack thereof, of uniform, technology-specific security, along with privacy regulatory efforts and practices.

11:15–11:30 a.m.
Mid-Morning Break

11:30–12:45 p.m.
Industry Use of UAV Technology

The emerging technologies involving unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are rapidly maturing along two simultaneous industry trajectories: the industry surrounding the development and manufacturing of the drone technologies themselves, as well as the adjacent industry of integrating the technologies across existing business landscapes.  The industry panel will explore these two maturing industries, the challenges they face, and the opportunities they present.  This panel will feature speakers that manufacture and develop the systems themselves, as well as those who are beginning to rely upon them in construction and other industries.

12:45–2:00 p.m.
Lunch and Keynote Address by Gregory McNeal

Dr. Gregory S. McNeal, JD/PhD, will deliver a keynote address entitled: Drones and the Future of Aviation: Key Issues in Law and Policy. Dr. McNeal is a tenured Professor of Law and Public Policy at Pepperdine University and the co-founder of AirMap.  AirMap’s platform provides airspace information and services to drone operators, drone manufacturers, software developers and aviation stakeholders—reaching over 85% of the drones in operation today and more than 125 airports.  Dr. McNeal is an expert on drones and topics related to technology, law, and policy.  He is a nationally recognized commentator for Forbes, and a frequent keynote speaker at industry events and academic conferences related to drones, technology, law, and public policy.

2:15–3:30 p.m.
The Fourth Amendment and Government Use of UAV Technology

In the past, simple aerial surveillance of criminal suspects has been considered outside the protections of Fourth Amendment law.  Legal scholars are reexamining Fourth Amendment boundaries as state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies use new domestic surveillance tools, including UAVs and UAS.  This panel will explore the Fourth Amendment implications of law enforcement’s use of drones and the consequences of current state legislation that restricts state law enforcement’s use of drones.

3:30-3:45 p.m.
Mid-Afternoon Break

3:45-5:00 p.m.
Preemption and New FAA Regulations

In 2016, the FAA released a new set of rules governing domestic use of UAVs and UAS.  In many ways, these new rules create more questions than they answer.  The ultimate question is: when, if ever, do state laws still apply to UAVs and UAS?  This panel will address the new FAA regulations by specifically focusing on the basic elements of the new rules, what they do and do not permit, the potential for commercial use of UAVs at night, and the situations in which UAVs may fly over people or beyond the visual line of sight of the operator.  In examining preemption, the panelists will look at the issue from two angles: first, the situations where state governments would be best suited to monitor UAV and UAS use and second, whether the federal government should be involved in drone regulation at all.

Gregory S. McNeal

Along with being a successful entrepreneur, I am a tenured Professor of Law and Public Policy at Pepperdine University. I teach courses related to technology, law, and policy, and serve as a faculty member with the Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship.

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