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Drones are revolutionizing America’s airspace and raising novel legal questions. Torts of the Future: Drones takes an in-depth look at the current federal and state regulatory regime for commercial drone use and examines how courts, legislators, and secondary actors contribute to shaping tort law as it applies to drones. ILR’s research asserts that despite the relative technological novelty of drones, the creation of new tort law doctrines to address them is neither necessary nor desirable.
On the way to that conclusion, the paper explores the interplay of local, state, and federal law around drones, as policymakers consider unique legal questions that drones raise. The paper then examines the future of drone torts through the lens of privacy torts, trespass, and negligence. Although there remain some areas of uncertainty where further clarity is needed, courts would be well-served to apply settled principles of tort law to drones as they increasingly hear these types of cases. Application of traditional tort law is appropriate and preferable to a new patchwork of inconsistent laws across jurisdictions, and it will better serve the public interest in ensuring safe and efficient use of this promising technology.