Ted Simons: Increasing use of drones in society is indicative of a new technology with a lot of potential, but it's also making for privacy and regulation concerns. Here to talk about legal issues surrounding drones with James Arrowood with the Frutkin law firm in Scottsdale. Good to have you here.
James Arrowood: Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: Let's start the discussion. What is a drone?
James Arrowood: It kind of depends on who you ask. There's a military drone which I've seen. But now I think what's really concerning people are these smaller UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles. Depending on if you ask the FAA or an individual, it used to be that there was a rule put out in about 1981 what's called a model aircraft. It fell outside of the FAA's regulatory rules. That allowed hobbyists to fly model airplanes in parks and things like that. It wasn't something most people could access, people self-regulated in clubs. Now we’ve gotten to a place where there’s very small rotary vehicles that could stand in place and surveil areas. You can get them for a few hundred dollars. Everything's gone out the window as to what is a UAV drone.
Ted Simons: So again, my liability. What would be my liability for flying a drone? What am I responsible for if I send my drone up to the heavens?
James Arrowood Like anything, you would be responsible if you injured somebody for instance or caused property damage with any piece of property. If you were to throw a baseball and break a window for instance, there would be similar liability issue. But the problem is, with the UAV, it's very, very hard right now to track who may own that and you can go out of sight. Somebody could be in a building and flying a drone or UAV somewhere, cause damage and it would be nearly impossible to identify them.
Ted Simons: Is licensing a must? Got to figure out who’s got the drone that just did that.
James Arrowood Well, presently the FAA is saying everybody should be licensed and certified to be flying under certain conditions and what have you. But the truth is people aren't. Personally I think there needs to be some technology involved. Much like a license plate on a car or a serial number even. You have something similar but it would probably be electronic, maybe like an RFID that would coordinate with cell towers. We already have a system in place for pinging on cell towers. That would be a simple solution and maybe a few dollars.
Ted Simons: Tracking makes better sense?
James Arrowood: Better than maybe licensing. You could get a motorcycle endorsement and it would probably make sense somebody would get an endorsement to fly these things. The bad actors, they are so simple to fly, you don't even need to know how to fly one now. You can pick a point on a map and another point on the map, and make it fly point to point, you really don't need to know how to fly it.
Ted Simons: If it turns into the Jetsons with so many drones buzzing around, what is going to be needed as far as regulations are concerned?
James Arrowood: I've got some strong opinions on that. I think that right now we have, on the federal level of FAA is trying to determine where its rules and regulations apply. Drones have gotten so small now that the FAA regulations used to just apply to bigger things. People have argued successfully recently that they are not subject to the FAA rules and that creates a big problem of course. The FAA is trying to enforce it, they issued a bunch of subpoenas in New York to real estate agents, so they are using them to fly around New York. I think the solution has to be coming up with some sort of way of having lanes in the sky, as it were. I think Arizona ought to be a leader in that and they are just not right now.
Ted Simons: I can see these things, buoys in the sky, marking spots for other aircraft or UAVs to come and go, the whole nine yards.
James Arrowood: That's not a bad idea, practically speaking, in maybe 20 years, you could have lanes east-west or North-South. Right now, for instance, Texas has some good laws on this. In terms of a state being proactive, they have addressed the law enforcement side, which is warrantless surveillance, that's what most people are worried about, and when can you use it in an emergency situation like the firefighters in Yarnell. That was a situation where you have a spotter and they were in a bad spot. Certainly drones could save lives, I mean that’s a 100%. We need to have exceptions for that. But we need to have criminal penalties for people who are misusing them in the civil and commercial context.
Ted Simons: Indeed, and I would imagine commercial context would be relatively easy in the sense that you're making money off of what you're doing, but as far as the privacy concerns, how deep do those concerns go and what are you seeing out there as far as how the industry, the drone world is handling this?
James Arrowood: The drone world is disjointed in a lot of ways so there hasn’t been a uniformed sense of that. I think people are worried about somebody hovering over them and watching their dinner party or something. Right now you don't have an expectation of privacy. Someone with a helicopter could theoretically fly over you and videotape your backyard if it were open. I think Texas law does a good job of addressing that, it provides a misdemeanor if you have intent to view have been surreptitiously without their consent, over private property. The problem is tying in intent and the person who's using that drone.
Ted Simons: You think about the various size of UAVs, but they can be teeny, tiny too, can't they?
Well there’s something called MAVs, micro aerial vehicles. Not just aerial vehicles but things that might look like a rat or something else that could go around. Microvehicles that are autonomous. That's just a whole New World. There really needs to be things that identify -- from the manufacturers for instance from the get-go, somebody couldn't buy one of these without it being somehow encoded. That's not a hard fix and it ought to be legislated and in the rules.
Ted Simons: Is that happening?
James Arrowood: I haven't seen it, and I certainly haven’t seen it in Arizona. There have been minor attempts, out of Chandler they tried to put some law enforcement laws in place but it didn't go through. If you were to put drones over the border and give the border patrol access, far more effective than 1,000 National Guardsmen. They have no ability to make arrests or do anything. If you just fly drones up there and they identify, there's just great uses for that to be in place.
Ted Simons: And let's talk more about the potential use of drones in a variety of ways. Commercially speaking, we're talking about concerns and regulations that might be needed, some of the positive potential for drones.
James Arrowood: There's unbelievable potential. Arizona ought to be a leader in that for a variety of reasons. We know Amazon want to use these to deliver packages, for instance. Maybe they are a company with the money and resources to make that happen. Conoco-Phillips has them for oil lines for safety, sending people out in the winter, things like that. There are a number of good uses economically for them. Why isn't Arizona taking the lead on that? It ought to.
Ted Simons: Why doesn't Arizona take the lead?
James Arrowood: I don't know, I'm trying to figure that out.
Ted Simons: Your biggest concern about drones and your biggest hope for the future about drones?
James Arrowood: Well, misuse, personal or national security, anything that hurts people is my biggest concern. My biggest hope for drone use is that we figure out a way to maximize, certainly on the state level, the proper use of them for law enforcement, for saving lives and for economic value. It's not reinventing the wheel. We went through this 100 years ago with cars, motor vehicles. The only real difference here is you're in a 3-dimensional space as opposed to a two dimensional linear space. It can be done, it’s not rocket science.
Ted Simons: Will it be done, in another 20, 30 years, are we going to see the Jetsons with stuff buzzing around over us?
James Arrowood: You're going see the Jetsons and it gets even further than that. If you could imagine you could have a guide drone linked to you as a watch, that follows you around maybe on a hike, and it could carry your water or something, essentially an aerial donkey or a mule, rather than be afraid of it, let's be proactive. Let's do something about it. I like to get ahead of this. Why is Texas taking the lead on that? Why is that happening?
Ted Simons: There's a brave New World out there. Very good information, good to have you here.
Thank you, thank you.