Lawyers love any development that provides new business and the civilian use of drones looks like it will become a new niche area of law. The government is due to develop some ground rules and lawyers are ready to assist clients in complying with them.
As the Virginia Lawyers Weekly reported (sub. req.) this week, there is a Wild West quality to the current civilian use of drones since there are few clear rules.
While the civilian drone industry awaits direction, one Virginia law firm says it has a long record of working with the contractors who keep the military drones flying. Military unmanned aerial systems are “where the action is,” according to Robert E. Korroch of Newport News. He chairs the 12-attorney Williams Mullen drone practice group, which launched in June. 12 attorneys? Wow.
A similar practice group exists in the Richmond-based LeClairRyan firm.
Business drones for profit are not yet commonplace, but the prospects are thought to be great. As the article notes, news organizations are especially interested in using drones to do much of what helicopters do now, but at a lower cost and with reduced risk.
Law enforcement is also very interested, but law enforcement drone use is, for now, banned by law in Virginia. Curiously, the ACLU and a tea party group joined arms to protect the privacy rights of Virginia citizens and secured a moratorium through July 1 of 2015.
A General Assembly-mandated study came up with model procedures for police drone use, including these:
- Drone use should be “as transparent as possible,”
- Weapons should be “strictly prohibited,”
- Police drones should be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, and
- “When the primary mission is to collect evidence of a criminal incident AND the [drone] will intrude upon the reasonable expectation of privacy, the law enforcement agency should consult with their Commonwealth’s Attorney about obtaining a search warrant in advance of deployment.”
The current regulatory battle involves the smallest of drones – model aircraft used by hobbyists and others at low altitudes over private property.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com