Dron't Stop Me Now: Prioritizing Drone Journalism in Commercial Drone Regulation

40 Pages Posted: 17 May 2019 Last revised: 7 Dec 2019

See all articles by David Fischer

David Fischer

Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts

Date Written: April 18, 2019


This Note argues that the current federal, state, and local regulatory picture facing the use of commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) does not properly account for journalists using these devices for content production and investigative reporting. This Note proceeds in three parts. Part I details the current state of federal, state, and local regulation of commercial drone use. Keeping in mind potential changes that may result to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Part 107 commercial drone regulations from the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, this Note considers the FAA’s current regulations as a baseline for whether new regulations would help or hinder drone journalism. The state and local picture is more intricate and this Note discusses those regulations in three parts: safety regulations, privacy regulations, and region-specific regulations. Part II discusses federal safety regulations and the First Amendment and proposes simplifying the regulatory picture by preempting most state and local safety regulations. Part III examines whether the federal regulatory scheme preempts state and local privacy regulations and common law torts, the application of those common law torts, and First Amendment limitations on state and local privacy regulations. The Conclusion details how the regulatory scheme proposed herein would look to a journalist seeking to use a drone.

Keywords: unmanned aircraft system, UAS, unmanned aircraft vehicle, UAV, drone, commercial, regulation, preemption, First Amendment, journalism, journalist, safety, privacy

Suggested Citation

Fischer, David, Dron't Stop Me Now: Prioritizing Drone Journalism in Commercial Drone Regulation (April 18, 2019). Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3374488

David Fischer (Contact Author)

Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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