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It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane... It’s A Drone Delivering A Package? A Look At The Legal Questions Emerging Around Service Drones

A quadcopter drone arrives with a small delivery.
A quadcopter drone arrives with a small delivery.
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

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Picture this: you look out your window to see drones frequenting your neighborhood and maybe dropping packages next door. We’re not quite there yet and could have a ways to go because experts say there are still a lot of technology and regulatory issues to sort out. 

Still, companies are making headway on the use of drones in the service industry. Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., became the first company to use a commercial drone delivery service in the U.S., according to a recent L.A. Times piece. And UPS recently got the OK to use drones for deliveries at universities, corporations and hospitals. The L.A. Times article also notes, there are some “thorny legal questions” companies who are preparing for drone delivery services, like Google and Amazon, will have to answer.

There are questions around data collection, liability, safety, trespassing, noise and more. The list could probably go on and on. Some experts say we’re likely to see legal challenges as drones are used on a wide scale because the issue is largely uncharted and there’s little precedent that currently exists. Are you worried about drone services occurring in your neighborhood? Or are you ready for the new tech?  Larry sits down with research and policy experts to discuss the challenges.


Steven Miller, practicing attorney and partner in the Public Agency practice at Hanson Bridgett in California, where he advises local government, manufacturers and users on drone policy. He also writes the blog

Arthur Holland Michel, co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in upstate New York, he’s the author of the new book “Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How it Will Watch Us All” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019); he tweets @WriteArthur