Potential Legal Problems with Drones

The FAA regulates the use of U.S. Airspace and has rules and regulations concerning the use of Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV).


UAV are unmanned aerial vehicles – commonly known as drones. They are essentially aircraft without any human pilots, crew, or passengers on board the aircraft. They are controlled by a ground-based controller.


Due to a sharp rise in the use of UAV, there exists several potential legal issues connected with the use of drones.

Unless the operator has a remote pilot certificate, then Small UAS Rule (Part 107) must be strictly complied with during the entirety of the flight of the UAV. A failure to do so may result in significant civil fines and/or civil action by a private person.


The operator of the UAV, including a law enforcement officer, is responsible to comply with all applicable federal and state laws, rules and regulations when operating the UAV.


The intentional filming or recording of any data could lead to serious legal problems for the owner/operator depending on the manner of use and the ultimate use of the information gathered, unless all laws, rules and regulations are strictly followed.

The use of UAV by law enforcement and private individuals has raised privacy concerns for many people. Increasingly, law enforcement agencies are using the UAV to conduct surveillance and conduct open air/plain sight searches of public and private property.

In addition, the increase in technology including the use of FLIR, RADAR, Night Vision and other enhanced video and audio devises mounted on the UAV raise serious privacy concerns.


There may also be a significant risk to the owner/operator of the UAV if the operator loses control of the UAV and it lands in a manner that damages property and/or injures a person, or the controlled flight constitutes a trespass or nuisance.
If you have a legal issue involving the use of UAV by law enforcement or an individual, including a nosey neighbor, a personal injury or damage to your property, contact Christopher E Chapman (cchapman@smithwelchlaw.com) for legal assistance.


Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.