Coddington, Hicks & Danforth

San Francisco Business & Commercial Legal Blog

Are drones crashing into other aircraft?

Drones interfering with other aircraft in the sky is becoming an increasing problem. Though no fatalities have occurred yet, it may only be a matter of time.

Drones can create risky flying conditions for other aircraft. Drones can weigh up to 50 pounds, they can disrupt the flight pattern enough to cause pilots to veer off course or they can create the need for pilots to make emergency landings. It may only be a matter of time before more serious incidents occur.

How much harm can a drone do to a person on impact?

In April of 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a new report on human collisions with drones. Although the FAA admits the figures on drone crashes with humans may be too early to fully predict, they did find data on how much damage a drone may cause when colliding with someone on the ground.

What follows are their findings. These are not the only injuries found, but they were the most common.

Drone registration required by FAA

An ongoing argument exists between drone hobbyists and commercial companies that use drones in their businesses. The businesses argue that hobbyists should have to abide by rules just as the commercial companies must. Rules create fairness and safety for those operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the skies.

The companies are looking increasingly at drones to deliver goods faster and cheaper, but the companies are also subject to regulations to send drones on these delivery missions.

Can a drone steal someone's I.D.?

Every year drones are getting more and more technically advanced. Their uses expand and so do their possibilities in artificial intelligence and crime. The newest crime being brought to the forefront of drone use is ID theft through hacking.

Hacking is a when someone gains unauthorized access to a system to steal data. If someone guessed your password to your computer and logged in to steal data, that would be considered hacking.

Can your drone be shot down by police? Maybe.

Most drone enthusiasts follow the rules. They generally know what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and California state laws say about using drones. Whether using the technology for profit or for fun, running afoul of the law isn't usually a concern for responsible drone owners.

That hasn't stopped some California municipalities from implementing measures to control drone activity, however. The Oceanside police department recently received an anti-drone "gun" that can be used to shoot down unauthorized drones. It may not be long before other jurisdictions follow suit.

What is episodic drone insurance?

To legally drive a car, you must be able to prove not only that you have a valid license but also that you possess adequate car insurance. Driving without insurance or with inadequate insurance leaves you open to all kinds of liability.

The same could be said for other motor vehicles. If you own a boat, motorcycle or ATV, for example, chances are you have insurance policies for them. They are expensive pieces of equipment, after all.

Drone hobbyists could face new regulations

In the U.S., drone operation is a rapidly growing hobby. As recreational aviators have taken to the sky in droves, they've largely done so without burdensome federal regulation. If one particular company gets it way, however, that could all change.

Alphabet Inc. is leading the charge to encourage congress to enact stricter regulations on drone hobbyists. The company, which plans to launch a commercial drone delivery service, is hitting back against an exemption that it sees as unfair to the business community. In their effort to level the playing field, Alphabet Inc.'s actions could mean a whole new set of rules for the casual drone pilot.

Northern California drone company seeks to save lives

The prospect of commercial drones being used for delivery purposes is an exciting one. The advent of rapid drone delivery for small goods could very well prove revolutionary in the coming future. While this ever-advancing technology is a potential boon for the e-commerce industry, one California company is exploring ways that drones could improve health care as well.

Zipline, a surging startup in the drone space, is currently testing what would be the fastest drone in the world. Hitting airspeeds of up to 80 mph, Zipline's new aircraft could be an incredible logistics asset for major retailers like Amazon. The company, however, is also working on some nobler ambitions: they're aiming to use drones to deliver blood to areas that desperately need it.

Businesses could start using drones for more than deliveries

Drones have frequently been in the news for their potential as a delivery mechanism. With major e-commerce companies exploring their viability as a shipping solution, "delivery drones" could be everywhere sooner than later. Their utility makes sense for online retailers like Amazon--a company that ships countless small packages every day--but one big-box chain is looking to bring drones indoors.

Walmart recently submitted a patent application for what it calls a "providing drone assistance" system. At a fundamental level, this would allow shoppers to call on in-store drones when they have questions. It's an innovation that could potentially revolutionize the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, as well as how drones function as a tool of business.

Could drones help in the fight to reduce air pollution?

It’s easy to think of drones in the sense of what they can add to modern life. For recreational purposes, they offer a unique aviation experience that just about anyone can enjoy. As a means of utility, drones can gather aerial imagery and data from hard-to-reach vantage points. Even for consumers, the prospect of drones delivering purchased goods is becoming an increasingly tangible reality. But what if drones could also remove the smog and pollution that looms over some of California’s larger cities?

Drones are an exciting technology and they’ve already proven useful on several different fronts. With a rise in these unmanned aerial vehicles being used for public good—e.g. tracking wildfires and other disasters—what are their prospects for helping to clean up California’s environmental ills? A look at what drones are doing here and abroad could offer a glimpse into the future.

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