“Current federal case law allows warrantless observation of property from manned aerial vehicles if they are in publicly navigable airspace. The increasing domestic use of unmanned aerial vehicles, colloquially known as ‘drones,’ and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) efforts to develop regulations to integrate them into national airspace implicate sensitive constitutional privacy issues. In response, several states are enacting or have already enacted statutes to regulate drone use. This Note discusses how state drone statutes may inform the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourth Amendment and its protection against unreasonable searches by drones — specifically, whether state drone statutes may influence the Court’s current understanding of the ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ when it is inevitably applied in warrantless drone surveillance cases.
First, this Note reviews Fourth Amendment jurisprudence regarding surveillance technologies and searches. It then provides a survey of state drone statutes currently in effect, their purposes, and their practical effects on the use of drones by the government and private parties. Next, this Note discusses how state drone statutes may interact with Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and inform the Supreme Court’s understanding of reasonable expectations of privacy in the context of drones. As drone technology develops, state statutes can influence and reflect social norms and expectations regarding drone use and the type of information discoverable by drones, while creating a source of protection for privacy interests that is independent of the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, policy arguments made during the development of state drone statutes may legitimate people’s expectations of privacy against drones. Ultimately, this Note predicts that state drone statutes will likely influence the Court’s jurisprudence on the reasonable expectation of privacy, whether explicitly or implicitly, as drones develop technologically and are regulated.”
Taly Matiteyahu, Drone Regulations and Fourth Amendment Rights: The Interaction of State Drone Statutes and the Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, in Volume 48, Issue 2 of the Journal of Law and Social Problems.
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