Coddington, Hicks & Danforth

How drones are affecting delivery services

California is known for being on the forefront of new drug laws in the United States. The legalization of marijuana has spurned new and creative endeavors across the state. Technology drives many of these undertakings via smartphone apps and the blockchain. How does the law affect this kind of innovation?

Companies like Amazon are experimenting with drone delivery. The service is not widespread yet because they are facing obstacles from the Federal Aviation Administration regulations against flying drones for commercial use, but that isn't stopping everyone. At the end of 2017, one California couple pushed the limits of technology and drug laws after allegedly using a drone to deliver controlled substances in Riverside.

Defining drone law

The couple faces charges of possession of a controlled substance for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia, but whether or not they violated the law related to drones is unclear. Because the use of drones both by consumers and businesses is emerging, laws related to safety or wrongful actions may be ambiguous, unclear or too broad.

FAA guidelines and California law restrict the use of drones for commercial purposes. With an understanding of these restrictions, it is easy to see why technology, consumer demand and the law might conflict at times.

Drone use is prohibited in some situations including:

  • Flying over crowds at public events
  • Flying over disaster areas
  • Flying over national parks
  • Flying at night
  • Flying at high speeds
  • Flying near airports
  • Flying beyond the operator's line of sight
  • Flying multiple drones at the same time

As technology advances, it could better accommodate the use of drones for commercial purposes, though the law often lags behind technology.

Loosening or tightening restrictions on the use of drones in response to technological advances remains the work of lawyers around the country, and it is often driven - or flown - by business innovation.

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