Warrantless Operations of Public Use Drones: Considerations for Government Agencies

22 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2018

See all articles by Gregory S. McNeal

Gregory S. McNeal

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law; Pepperdine University - School of Public Policy

William Goodwin

AirMap

Sezen Jones

AirMap

Date Written: 2017

Abstract

The benefits of drones continue to transform our lives and nowhere is this more apparent than with the use of drones by local governments. While these benefits are tremendous, residents often express privacy concerns and fear of persistent surveillance associated with law enforcement’s deployment of drones. In response, critics have made knee jerk reactions to attempt to apply warrant requirements prior to police use of drones.

Outside of the law enforcement context, civic uses of drones face similar challenges to deployment, so long as government actors must operate under a traditional administrative warrant analysis. This Article advocates that well established aerial surveillance law is applicable to both law enforcement use of drones as well as other public uses of drones. According to well established case law starting with California v. Ciraolo, observations made by law enforcement are allowable sans warrant if they occur in public navigable airspace or from a place where the officer had a right to be. Such an analysis should be applicable to civic uses of drones when determining whether an administrative warrant is required prior to deploying public use drones for code enforcement and other municipal inspections. This Article also explores how government agencies can change negative perceptions of drones in their communities through adoption of proper policies and procedures.

Keywords: drones, privacy, warrants, surveillance, unmanned aircraft, surveillance technology

Suggested Citation

McNeal, Gregory S. and Goodwin, William and Jones, Sezen, Warrantless Operations of Public Use Drones: Considerations for Government Agencies (2017). Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 44, p. 703, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3150085

Gregory S. McNeal (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

Pepperdine University - School of Public Policy ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

William Goodwin

AirMap ( email )

406 Broadway
#304
Santa Monica, CA 90401
United States

Sezen Jones

AirMap ( email )

406 Broadway
#304
Santa Monica, CA 90401
United States

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