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Commercial Drones and the Phantom Menace

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Document pages: 35 pages

Abstract: Unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAVs”) — commonly referred to as “drones” — get a lot of bad press. Their operations are portrayed as a clear and present danger to privacy and property rights — the constitutional equivalent of falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater for First Amendment purposes. In regular conversation, the pejorative “drone” is used instead of the proper “UAV” to connote danger, imminent and otherwise. This is understandable given the technology’s military origins. “Drones” are hunter-killer robots with scary names like “Predator” and “Reaper.” They are scary “smart” with robust intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance capabilities. In the “war on terror,” they stalk human beings with indefatigable persistence and kill them with “Hellfire” missiles. Unfortunately, this context overshadows the many civil and commercial uses of UAVs, including natural gas pipeline monitoring, agriculture remote sensing, and aerial cinematography. This article is the first to examine the current UAV regulatory environment as applied to the media and entertainment industry.

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