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Drones, Drones Everywhere ...

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on May 19, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

What are we going to do with all these drones? Indeed, drones are coming at us from all sorts of angles. As a consequence, law firms are even coming up with practice groups devoted to the legal issues presented by drones.

Let's explore just a few of the many issues that may arise from drones.

Drones, of course, have been used for military purposes. Not only can they be used for unmanned surveillance, they also can be implemented for military attacks. The question arises as to when the deployment of military drones is sufficient to constitute an act of war by one country against another. And the launching of drone attacks is not necessarily limited to countries, as terrorists and other groups also potentially could use drones for attacks.

Next comes the idea of drones delivering products purchased over the Internet. Imagine: With a few clicks you order your favorite book from Amazon, and before you know it, the book shows up at your front door, delivered by a drone. Is this practical and economical? We should find out relatively soon, as this idea is being actively explored right now. And if drone delivery of commercial products comes true, what will that be like? Will it be annoying and disturbing to have these little craft flying all over the place? Is it possible that people might try to shoot down or otherwise interfere with drones as they vent their frustrations? Will drones be messed with by thieves as they might seek to steal the products carried on the drones? The answer potentially is "yes" to all of these questions.

And last, but not least, comes the issue of privacy in the world of drones. Many of us have seen amazing and wonderful aerial photos and videos taken by drones. Drones are inexpensive and do not necessarily require pilots' licenses to get up in the air to record what is happening below. But because they are cheap to use and easy to navigate, drones could be used to follow people, spy on them, and peek in on them where not previously expected.

Once upon a time, for example, we believed that we had ultimate privacy in our homes. If you were changing your clothes in your third-floor bedroom, you might not expect anyone to be looking at you, especially if your bedroom window is not directly across from the window of another building. But now, conceivably, a drone could fly near your window, and take photos and video of what you are doing in your bedroom. Because of drones, do we need to lower our expectations of privacy? Or, do we need to fight where drones can go and what they are doing when they go there?

The possibilities as to what drones can do and the issues that may arise boggle the mind. Stay tuned -- drones are not going away.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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