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Drones: Current Laws and Risks of Injury

If you live in Milwaukee or elsewhere in Wisconsin, do you need to be concerned about your safety and the invasion of your privacy as a result of people using drones? Could drones cause serious personal injury?

lineAt Gruber Law Offices, LLC, we are concerned about the safety and well-being of our community. We want to ensure that everyone has a sense of the current laws and regulations concerning the use of these devices, and how the public has responded to drone use and accidents in areas across the country.

How Are Drones Used (and Addressed by Laws) in Our Country?

Drones are a new form of technology. In recent years, members of the general public have started to use these devices for business and recreational purposes. They are also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

In response to increasing use of drones, federal lawmakers passed legislation in 2012 that sought to promote safety, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act (P.L. 112-095).

Additionally, in 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) created an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Comprehensive Plan. The plan discusses the ways in which drones can be operated within the country’s National Airspace System (NAS).

As the DOT explains in the Comprehensive Plan, drones are being used for many different purposes, including:

As the DOT explains in the Comprehensive Plan, drones are being used for many different purposes, including:

For several years now, drones have also been used as a form of recreation, according to CNET.

In the Comprehensive Plan, the DOT stressed the need to address issues of safety with regard to drones as well as “non-safety related issues such as privacy and civil liberties, physical security and potential economic opportunities.”

Under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was required to integrate drones into the national airspace system by 2015, according to an article in the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems.

As the article notes, the terms “drone” or “unmanned aerial vehicle” can include many different types of devices. The one thing they have in common is that they “do not carry human operators and are capable of operating remotely or autonomously on a pre-programmed flight path.”

Drones that weigh between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds must be registered – even if they are only operated recreationally and as model aircraftHowever, drones can also vary in size and can be used for numerous purposes, particularly by consumers. The article explains how drones “can be as small as an insect or the size of a commercial airplane,” and they “can be equipped with high-power cameras, thermal scanners, license plate readers, moving target indicators, LADAR (laser radar), LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and facial recognition software.”

The article underscores that “non-weaponized domestic uses for drones are boundless” and notes that the devices can be used “to map areas, to aid in the daily workings of farms, to track wildlife, and even to deliver packages.”

Since 2012, the FAA has instituted certain drone regulations to protect the public. In particular, any drones that weigh between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds must be registered – even if they are only operated recreationally and as model aircraft.

What Are the Drone Regulations in Wisconsin?

According to the Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office, drone legislation has been proposed in the state in recent years. Specifically, S.B. 498 would have prohibited the use of drones “over a state correctional institution, including any grounds of the institution.”

The bill also would have allowed a city, village, town or county in Wisconsin to enact ordinances that designated “drone-free spaces.” The bill ultimately did not pass.

However, existing legislation in Wisconsin addresses drones in terms of personal privacy.

According to the Cartographer’s Office, the 2014 Drone Privacy Protection Act “requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant prior to using a drone to collect evidence and prohibits individuals from using drones with the intent to photograph or observe an individual in a place where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

What Kind of Injuries Could Drones Cause?

Since drones have become commonplace, they have resulted in injuries in many different parts of the world, including the U.S.

As TechRepublic reports, one incident occurred in December 2014 involving a photographer from the Brooklyn Daily who suffered a facial injury from a drone. Slate also covered the incident.

The drone accident arose when a TGI Friday’s held a holiday promotion called “Mobile Mistletoe.” During the event, a drone carrying sprigs of mistletoe into a restaurant hit the photographer in the face.

As the Slate article notes, “the drone propellers cut the photographer’s nose and chin, drawing a few drops of blood.” The photographer reported it somewhat differently, indicating that the drone “literally chipped off a tip of my nose.”

Drones have also reportedly flown into people at sporting events and caused injuries as well as interfered with other aircraft.

Have There Been Any Court Cases Involving Drones?

A recent court decision in Kentucky indicates that some states may be cautious – if not downright hostile – towards the idea of allowing drones to be used in communities and at public events.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, a state court judge threw out “a case against a Kentucky man arrested for shooting down a drone that he says was flying over his property and invading his privacy.”

lineIt is important to note that Kentucky, unlike Wisconsin, has no laws in place to regulate the private (or consumer) use of drones. So, it is possible that the incident mentioned above may have resulted in a different outcome if it had taken place in our state.

Contact a Milwaukee Personal Injury Lawyer

David Gruber

As drone use by the public increases in the years ahead, Gruber Law Offices will continue to stay on top of the legislation and case law that addresses these devices.

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury caused by a drone, an experienced personal injury lawyer from our firm can provide a free and confidential review of your case. Simply call or reach us online.