Don’t Slay the Drones – New FAA Guidance for Recreational and Commercial use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Lately, it seems like drones are everywhere. From flying over crowds at concerts to monitoring pipelines for leaks, drones are here to stay. As popular as drones have become, however, there is little consistent regulation from state to state, causing confusion and potential legal consequences for users, casual and commercial alike.

For example, in early 2017, a man using a drone to film elk on the National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming spooked the herd, causing a stampede of over 1,500 animals; he was fined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for disturbing wildlife.1 Elsewhere, a suit filed in the Sixth Circuit against William Merideth, a/k/a the “Drone Slayer,” who shot down a recreational drone that was hovering over his backyard and invading his privacy, was dismissed for failing to raise a federal issue, not involving federal parties, and not being important to the federal system.2 The drone’s owner brought the suit after charges of criminal mischief and wanton endangerment against Mr. Merideth were dismissed in state court. The Federal District Judge felt that the case was more appropriately a state tort case concerning trespass and invasion of privacy. Unfortunately for Mr. Boggs, the drone pilot, Kentucky is one of several states that currently lack enacted legislation concerning Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).3 The absence of such legislation makes it difficult for those who use drones, whether for commercial or recreational purposes, as well as those who disapprove of drones, to understand their rights when it comes to where, when, and how they may operate their UAVs.

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