Navigating the Turbulent Air Space of Drones

July 1, 2016 - 3 minutes read

Drone Accident

Navigating the Turbulent Air Space of Drones

There is an ever-growing cloud of uncertainty around the topic of drone use. One of the few certainties about drones is they appear to be here to stay. Recent estimates show that by 2023, the sales of military and civilian drones will total over $89 million. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is authorized to issue licenses for commercial drone use due to legislation to reform and modernize the FAA. Another certainty brought about by drone use is there will be potential civil liability issues for commercial and recreational drone operators. An incident involving a drone that had been knocked out of the sky by fans who had gathered outside a sports arena, arguably, could have led to an injury liability for that drone’s operator. There was no telling where it could have landed and who could have been hurt.

Whether you are a commercial or recreational drone operator, there are personal injury liabilities you need to be aware of in regards to the use of drones. During the course of a holiday promotion at a Brooklyn restaurant involving a drone that was supposed to hover above customers, a photographer was struck not too far from where it was hovering. Another incident took place in Florida where a drone struck and damaged the roof of a car that it was following. Such incidents are spurring state legislatures, like the state of Florida, to pass legislation that allows plaintiffs in civil actions to recover costs against drone operators if the drone “was a substantial contributing factor” in the damage that occurred.

In addition to civil liability for damage caused by a drone, some municipalities are seeking additional sanctions against specific drone usage. One city in Arizona has imposed restrictions and fines on drone flights over private and public property, unless permission has been granted to the drone operator.

If you are a business owner that is considering lifting off into the airspace of drone usage, it would be best to consult an attorney about ways to mitigate your exposure to liability for drone usage. Taking the step of performing a cost-benefit analysis of drone usage in your business should tell you if the potential benefits you could reap from drones would outweigh the foreseeable liabilities to mitigate. If you are a recreational user, finding a public space, at a reasonable distance from residences, offices or industrial areas should limit your exposure to civil liability or municipal violations.

If you have been injured or had property damaged by a recreational or commercial use drone, please reach out to the Law Offices of Michael Cordova for advice on your circumstances.