On two occasions in the last year, there have been incidents with drones interfering with pilots from the Patrick Air Force Base. The drones could have been operated by anyone. They could be hobbyists or people taking pictures over the river bordering the Patrick Air Force Base.
The drones were operated illegally and entered restricted air space. There could have been fatal accidents from this misuse of drones.
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“It could put a hole in a wing, it could shut down an engine,” said Lt. Col. John Lowe, chief of safety for the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick. “It could be devastating.”
In Florida, drones are ruling the skies of Brevard County and the rest of the country. The drones are used by many people including estate agents, farmers, event promoters, etc.
All these drones have cameras and video footage and images can now be captured from angles previously unimagined.
Stakeholders have raised concerns over issues ranging from safety to invasion of privacy resulting from the new popularity of drones.
“The market for unmanned aircraft in the United States is expanding rapidly, and companies, public entities, and research institutions are developing newer, faster, stealthier, and more sophisticated drones every year,” said Jennifer Lynch, a senior lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that works on privacy and civil liberties issues in new technologies.
A Law Practice Dedicated to Drones
Widerman Malek, a law firm based in Melbourne, has started a special area of its legal practice dedicated to drone usage. Issues like registrations, privacy, and property laws are all covered in this practice. It is the law firm that would pioneer this and a handful of law firms handling this specially are already coming up.
“We think it’s going to be a very complicated legal area,” said Edward Kingberg, one of the lawyers at Widerman Malek. “We’re focusing on commercial and the commercial drone operators need to know the rules, insurance, contract issues. It’s pretty much like operating a tax service or anything else. There are a lot of regulations and laws involved.”
The Role of the Federal Aviation Authority in Drone Usage
The FAA recently released a document detailing drone registration and other regulations. The regulations covered a lot of aspects of drone usage and a lot of people are already following the regulations. The rules state maximum speed, distance, and other parameters to be followed during drone flights. Commercial drones are popular nowadays, so the document has sections and guidelines dedicated to commercial drones.
Increasing Commercial Usage of Drones
More commercial drone operators are being established in Brevard County. They are all registered with the FAA and they have a wide variety of uses.
Digital GIS, which is owned by Adam Beard, is one of those companies. The company has drones that can be sued in many ways. A lot of farmers make use of the services of Digital GIS. The drones are used to monitor plantations for abnormalities and surveillance, thereby saving money and time. Imagine the stress and time involved in examining a field of 10,000 acres through human effort. This can be handled far more efficiently and in less time with a drone.
Drone Usage and Privacy
A New Jersey man who shot a drone flying over his backyard was slammed with some charges. The man argued that he was protecting the privacy of his family. Experts warn that harming drones invading one’s privacy is not the best course of action.
“If somebody parks their car on your property you can’t vandalize it,” said Kelly Swartz, one of the lawyers at Widerman Malek. “You call and have it towed away, or you call the police and have them deal with it because it’s a criminal violation.”
She also said that it’s possible the property owner might be liable for the damaged drone. For now, the best remedy is to have someone charged under the state Unwarranted Surveillance Act.
“There isn’t a great remedy for someone filming on your property,” Swartz said. “You can have them exposed to criminal sanctions, but there is not immediate way to make it end. You just have to go inside.”