St. Mary's Law Journal


In the United States, the use of personal drones has become more prevalent. Businesses now use drones to deliver products to consumers. Consumers now use drones to video and photograph special events. As a result, new laws are needed concerning personal usage of drones. The number of drone sales is predicted to double by 2024. This is reflected by companies such as Parrot, a vendor of private drones, who in the first quarter of 2014 sold 670,000 drones. Citizens whose personal liberties have been infringed upon by another individual’s use of personal drones, often resort to common law torts because many states have yet to pass legislation concerning the use of drones. States that have passed laws concerning private drone usage, however, have widely varying methodologies. Therefore, a federal law is needed to offer consistency. The central issue concerning tortious liability is the altitude of the drone. The Second Restatement of Torts does not address this issue. The United States Supreme Court, in United States v. Causby, failed to state a specific permissible altitude. Therefore, a federal law specifying a permissible altitude of drones is necessary. Congress must decide the height at which drone flights remain protected. This task may require a reexamination of current curtilage standards. It will be necessary to merge the most applicable aspects of existing tort law with a modern understanding of appropriate standards of conduct. Although the private use of drone aircraft is part of the technological future, a balance is needed concerning the appropriate use of drones while safeguarding each citizens’ privacy.


St. Mary's University School of Law