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Drones: Both A Hot Commodity and a Hot Button Issue

By of Aceto, Bonner & Cole, PC. posted in Criminal Law on Friday, June 3, 2016.

Drones have become one of the hottest items on the market, but they have also become one of the hottest topics of debate. To date, regulation of drones has been lacking. Recently, however, the FAA announced the creation of an Advisory Council that will be responsible for determining how to deal with drone issues. This Advisory Council's role will be paramount to the future of drone usage in the United States as drones raise a number of legal issues, from privacy claims to intentional torts.

One of the more concerning issues raised by the increasing presence of drones is a threat to privacy. This threat to privacy extends to both government intrusion and individual intrusion. Drones have the capability to be equipped with photographic equipment that can allow them to take pictures and videos of completely unsuspecting subjects. While one has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their home, this may not be true for activities that occur outside, where one could be observed from the street or a neighboring yard.

Among the other issues raised by increased drone usage are the possibility of assault and battery and trespass. In order to state a claim for assault and battery by drone, someone would have to prove that the drone was intentionally used as a projectile. To establish a claim for trespass, and landowner must prove that a drone was intentionally flown low over their property. Courts have held, however, that it is not trespass if a drone is not unreasonably close to your property.

Until regulations are put in place, drone-owners' liability for certain actions remains unclear. In the meantime, prudence would dictate to operate your drone cautiously, and obviously not to use it as a projectile against others.