Over the next five years in the United States, thousands of drones are expected to be deployed for an array of commercial and governmental purposes. This prospect has captured the public’s imagination, and there are concerns about the privacy implications and whether new laws and regulations are needed. We here provide an overview of existing privacy requirements for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) operating in the United States, describe new privacy proposals, and outline three scenarios that, depending on decisions by policymakers, could govern the privacy requirements for the commercial use of UAS for years to come.
UAS operators already must comply with a host of common law, state and federal privacy requirements.
Most states recognize the tort of “intrusion upon seclusion,” which can impose liability on those who intentionally intrude upon the seclusion of others in a manner that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. Conducting surveillance in a person’s home would likely implicate this privacy right, and overzealous surveillance of public activities may constitute an intrusion upon seclusion as well.