Drone Surveillance: How Private is My Backyard?

“Perhaps the most contentious issue concerning the introduction of drones [also called Unmanned Aeronautical Vehicles or “UAVs”] into U.S. airspace is the threat that this technology will be used to spy on American citizens.” Alissa Dolan and Richard Thompson, CONG. RESEARCH SERV.,R42940, Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues,*12 (Apr. 4, 2013). The tug of war between private airspace rights and an overly broad designation of publicly navigable airspace has created constitutional uncertainty. Search DRONE-BACKYARD-SURVEILLANCE and you will find the issue, seemingly settled for decades in case law, is remarkably one of first impression now.

Traditionally, the modern construction of air rights is founded in United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256, 264, 66 S. Ct. 1062, 90 L. Ed. 1206, 106 Ct. Cl. 854 (1946). There, the court stated: “The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as he can occupy or use

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