With the ability to house surveillance sensors such as high-powered cameras and thermal-imaging devices, some argue that drone surveillance poses a significant threat to the privacy of American citizens. Because the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable” searches and seizures applies only to acts by government officials, surveillance by private actors such as the paparazzi, a commercial enterprise, or one’s neighbor is instead regulated, if at all, by state and federal statutes and judicial decisions. Yet, however strong this interest in privacy may be, there are instances where the public’s First Amendment rights to gather and receive news might outweigh an individual’s interest in being let alone.
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace:
Selected Legal Issues
Alissa M. Dolan – Legislative Attorney
Richard M. Thompson II – Legislative Attorney
January 30, 2013
Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues
Congressional Research Service
Under the FAA MODERNIZATION AND REFORM ACT OF 2012, P.L. 112-95, Congress has tasked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), sometimes referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones, into the national airspace system by September 2015. Although the text of this act places safety as a predominant concern, it fails to establish how the FAA should resolve significant, and up to this point, largely unanswered legal questions.
For instance, several legal interests are implicated by drone flight over or near private property. Might such a flight constitute a trespass? a nuisance? If…
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