AuthorTimothy M. Ravich
e m ilit ary dimen sions of dr ones g rab m ost of the he adl ines a s the inno vatio n of aut ono-
mous and automated weapons raises unprecedented legal is sues. But the emergence of civil
and commercial drone operations on an international scale offers an equally compelling
story line, too. e global demand for drones in private and public spaces across a wide
ra nge of acti viti es is enorm ous, f rom a gric ultu re to s ear ch an d resc ue to sport s vid eogr aphy
to environmental conservation to antipoaching and pizza delivery.
Worldwide interest in drones has as much to do with advances in miniaturization,
engineering, and nanotechnology as with a revolution in data collection and analytics.
As transformational information devices, drones are “smart” airborne platforms armed
wit h eve r-soph isti cate d sens or su ites a nd sof twa re so lution s. Now, usin g hig h- resol ution ,
multispectral, thermal, a nd hyperspectral sensors on drones, farmers use precision agricul-
ture to assess yield and crop hea lth from the air —a data-driven approach that is far more
efficient than manual, ground-based processes rel iant on the naked eye. Meanwhile, small
drones offer journalists, law enforcement, railroad and insurance (and many other types
of) companies a n asset whose agility is superior to that of traditional airpla nes and rotor-
craft, maximizing information gathering and surveillance capabilities while minimizing
the human costs associated with low-altitude, close-proximity missions. Indeed, the abili-
ties of drones to gather intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) are apparently
limitless—constrained perhaps only by the law. But so, too, is the technology’s potential
for invading and degrading longstanding legal principles protecting personal and societal
privacy and property rights seemingly unbounded.
As ownership, operation, and interest in unmanned and optionally manned aircraft
increases in commercial space s, a consistent and predictable regulatory framework at every
level of government is both needed and wanting. In this context, this book sets out to
answer a fundamental question for operators, regulators, private citizens, and anybody
who is or wants to be a part of the drone revolution—what exactly is the law?

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