Researching Drone Laws

  • A drone flying at sunset.

With the increased popularity of drones across all aspects of society, it is important to examine the laws and regulations regarding commercial, government, and recreational drone use. The American Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Institute have published resources to help you navigate state and federal laws regarding drone use.

The Federal Aviation Administration categorizes drones, officially referred to as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), by weight and by use. Drones across America: Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Regulation and State Laws by Dr. Sarah Nilsson dives into three types of "use" categories: commercial, government, and hobby or recreational. It reprints select FAA memoranda and notices as well as summarizes relevant cases and statutes related to operation of UAS.

For those who use drones for commercial purposes, Commercial Drone Law: Digest of U.S. and Global UAS Rules, Policies, and Practices by Timothy M. Ravich "aims to be a supermarket of drone law as that body of law is currently framed. It identifies and explains the subject matter for the academic, practitioner, and student" (xv). Chapter topics include "Airspace", "Authority to Fly", "Airworthiness", and "Registration". There are also chapters on "Commercial UAS and Part 107", "State UAS Review", and "World UAS Survey".

A large section of the PBI What You Need to Know about Drones focuses on "Drone Use in Journalism and Privacy Concerns". It includes memoranda from the FAA and the Office of the President as well as relevant case opinions and proposed Pennsylvania House and Senate Bills from the 2015-2016 Session.

Like the other texts listed above, the PBI So, You Want to Fly a Drone? includes FAA and regulatory information regarding UAS, but it also includes chapters on "Insurance Issues" and "Privacy". The "Insurance Issues" chapter discusses possible claims, exclusions and endorsements, and potential coverage disputes. The "Privacy" chapter touches on expectation of privacy, state and federal laws, airspace ownership, and data collection.

Are you interested in international drone use laws? Check out Regulation of Drones, published by The Law Library of Congress, Global Research Center and available on HeinOnline. This title summarizes drone use laws in 13 different counties, including Australia, Canada, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union.

HeinOnline's Law Journal Library and Bar Journals Library are good ways to keep up-to-date with current trends in drone laws.

Need additional search help, contact our Research Department for additional search suggestions and tips.

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