United States: Employers: Prepare To Enter The "Drone Zone"

Like it or not, drones are becoming an ever-present part of modern life. These small, unmanned, aerial vehicles, controlled by a ground-based computer, smartphone, or remote control, are buzzing around the sky with increasing frequency. In fact, experts predict that up to one million drones will be sold this upcoming holiday season alone.

What do employers need to know about this 21st century phenomenon?

Commercial Drones v. Recreational Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had been directed by Congress to develop rules and regulations for integrating commercial drones into our airspace by early October of this year. The FAA missed that deadline, which means businesses that want to fly drones must still do it the "old-fashioned" way: applying for a certificate of exemption, which requires that drone operators be licensed airplane pilots who only fly drones in their line of sight. 

As of September 30, the FAA had granted 1,742 such exemptions. Companies that don't have an exemption but operate unauthorized drones can face stiff monetary fines. For example, on October 6, the FAA announced it was pursuing a $1.9 million fine against Chicago-based SkyPan International for alleged unauthorized drone flights over urban spaces.

Recreational drone users also face government regulation. On October 19, the FAA announced that it is developing a "drone registry" which will require recreational users to list their drones with the agency. This registry, which applies to all recreational drone users regardless of when they purchased their equipment, could be in place by the end of the year.

This development is likely in direct response to the reality that the government has not been able to adequately regulate drones in national airspace. For example, even though existing rules state that drones cannot fly above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport, the FAA received over 650 reports this year alone from pilots who saw drones violating these rules at altitudes as high as 10,000 feet.

The Time To Plan Is Now

The proliferation of drones means that you should plan for the likelihood that they will enter your worksites in the near future, despite tighter government regulation. After all, if drones can crash onto the White House lawn, a tennis arena during the U.S. Open, a college football stadium in Kentucky, or any number of prison yards across the country – all of which occurred in just the past several months – you can bet that your workplace is not immune.

There are four things we recommend your company do to prepare for the increase in drone technology.

Control Your Airspace

Minimizing drone access to your workplace is essential not only from a safety perspective, but also to ensure company trade secrets are protected and employee privacy concerns are addressed.

To date, few businesses have adopted policies specifically taking control of their own airspace. It is critical that you determine how to establish regulation of the "airspace" within your buildings and above your facilities, parking lots, and green spaces. You should begin by crafting a policy that identifies and establishes "no drone zones" within and outside of the facility.

Your procedure should specifically address how managers and employees should react if they witness policy violations. Your managers should be trained on whether to contact designated company representatives, law enforcement personnel, and/or the FAA if drones are spotted in or above your workplace. 

Are Drones Right For You?

Second, you should determine whether the use of drones can benefit your business. Commercial application of drones is on the brink of being fully explored. Applications will differ by industry and could include both internal and external operational functions.

For example, the delivery industry (including the U.S. Postal Service) continues to examine how drones might be used for letters and packages in sorting and distribution. But drone use goes well beyond deliveries. Due to advances in multispectral and optical technology, a wide range of industries are taking advantage of drones, including film, agriculture, drilling, policing, and those businesses performing infrastructure inspections.

As your research and development departments identify how they might integrate drone technology into your business, your focus should be on developing appropriate legally defensible frameworks to support implementation, without stifling an environment that fosters innovations in evolving applications.

Once the commercial applications for drones in your business have been identified, you should consider any and all physical and digital points of access to control and use. You need to examine all points along this pathway to ensure appropriate roles and responsibilities are defined, operational safeguards developed, and monitoring systems created (keeping in mind that enterprising computer hackers might be in a position to take over your drone controls unless you have effective security measures).

Restrict Drone Usage By Employees

Next, whether or not your company decides to take advantage of drone technology, your policies should provide specific instructions to your employees about the use of drones in the workplace. Your policies should place restrictions on the authorized use of company drones, and prohibit use of any non-company drones on your premises. 

Obviously, any authorized drone usage should follow the strict FAA exemption requirements as outlined above. After your company receives the required government exemption, you should limit the handling of the drones to authorized personnel, and provide instructions on how to properly secure any audio or video recordings captured by the device.   

You should prohibit all non-company drones, and tightly restrict authorized drones, to avoid unintended potential legal exposures. For example, a drone flown in a facility could capture footage which could become "Exhibit A" in later government investigations or legal proceedings against your company. This footage may or may not accurately depict or portray the state of a particular situation. 

Prohibiting drones ensures that you can continue to maintain control of your workplace, and ensures that management retains the ability to adapt and adequately respond to issues as they become known. 

Preparing For Implementation

Finally, before any drones take flight, you should offer training to all of your employees about how drones will be integrated into your business practices. Don't forget to address how other policies that are not drone-specific will be impacted by these developments. For example, remind your workers that drones cannot be used to violate your anti-harassment and anti-discrimination rules, your privacy policies, and others. If your company is unionized, determine how your policies might be impacted by your bargaining obligations.

You should also schedule regular review meetings for the first several years of implementation to examine how to customize control of the drone technology and address any unanticipated uses or problems.

For better or worse, employers are now in the "drone zone," and there's no going back. Getting in front of these issues before they land on your desk – figuratively or literally – will help prepare you for the 21st century workplace.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions