Drones have received a great deal of publicity lately.  People are thinking of ways they can incorporate drones into their business operations or may be thinking of using them for pleasure.  They certainly have many positive applications.  On the other hand, they have potential hazards, liabilities and governmental regulations that go along with their use.

Unless your use falls within an exception, your unmanned aircraft system (drone) must be registered under the National Defense Authorization Act.  The Federal Aviation Administration oversees registration and regulation of drones.  The operator must be certified to pilot or must be under the direct supervision of someone with the certification.  Some requirements for operating drones are:

  • visual line of site
  • unaided site
  • may not operate over persons not directly participating in operation, not under covered structure, not inside a stationary vehicle
  • daylight or twilight
  • yield right of way to other aircraft
  • maximum ground speed 100 mph
  • maximum altitude 400 feet

Legislation from this last session in Pennsylvania provides that unmanned drones may not be regulated at the local level.  You must consider whether your use in certain geographic areas would be considered a trespass or invasion of privacy.  These types of violations could cause criminal enforcement or civil actions against you.  Use of drones by government for law enforcement, or ordinance compliance, brings into question civil rights issues. Although civil rights issues continue to be an issue for consideration by governmental agencies, recent Pennsylvania legislation exempts individuals engaged in the performance of their official duties, for a municipality, municipal authority or government agency employees from the offense of use of unmanned drones.

Drones have potential uses for photographing events, inspection of buildings and infrastructure, weather analysis, law enforcement and many others.  They also have the potential of damaging property or persons in the event of an accident, leading to liability claims for trespass, invasion of property or in the case of use by governmental entities, civil rights claims.  It is therefore very important to register the drone, make sure the operator has the property certification, obtain permission to fly on or over other’s properties, and obtain specific insurance coverage.

Keep in mind that the widespread use of drones is fairly new, and the regulation of their use is changing rapidly.  Should you have questions or concerns, give us a call.