By 2020, there will be at least seven million civilian drones flying in the low-altitude airspace above the United States. Civilian drones include unmanned aerial vehicles operated by both private individuals for recreational and business entities for commercial purposes. While this budding technology has the potential to be a positive influence on society as a whole, civilian drone regulation at both the state and federal level lags behind growing drone usage across the country. As of now, the Federal Aviation Administration has administered a small rule that provides some regulation on the use of civilian drones. Many questions remain, however, as to the property rights that landowners on the ground have against drones and their operators flying in the low-altitude airspace above their property. This Note examines the common law torts of trespass and nuisance and analyzes how both doctrines would apply to a drone flying low above an individual’s land. Furthermore, this Note argues that the federal government is best suited to regulate civilian drones used for commercial purposes, whereas individual states should regulate the use of drones by private individuals.
Thomas Carlton, New Heights, New Uses, and New Questions: Can Individuals Enforce Their Property Rights Against the Impending Rise of Low-Flying Civilian Drones?, 59 B.C.L. Rev. 2135 (2018), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol59/iss6/6