Supporting Common Sense Tort Law for Reliable Drone Operations

Nearly a year ago, in July 2018, we wrote a blog post describing a group called the Uniform Law Commission and their committee addressing tort law related to drones. At that time, it was noteworthy that a broad cross-section of the commercial drone industry was adamantly opposed to the proposed draft put forth by the ULC. Most unworkable was the proposal to presume that any drone operation below 200 feet over private property should be considered trespassing, allowing any landowner to create a no-fly zone above their property.

The Uniform Law Commission is an influential group in the American legal community comprised of attorneys whose mission it is to promote uniformity on a particular topic of law among various jurisdictions. The ULC drafts and approves model legislation that addresses a particular area of the law and encourage states to adopt the legislation as-is or use it as the basis for their own legislation. In legal terminology, the ULC is a persuasive source. No jurisdiction is required to adopt the model legislation, but the ULC carries a lot of weight and may influence legislation put forth by a number of states.

In the year since we last wrote about this topic, the ULC has revised their draft legislation a number of times, reflecting careful compromise between commercial drone operators and property owners. Next month, the ULC will meet to adopt this draft legislation – but there are real concerns that last-second floor amendments will erase a year of progress and re-introduce the trespass presumption.

Recently, Kittyhawk joined a number of companies and industry groups in signing a letter to the ULC commissioners warning against last-second floor amendments which would drastically change the current draft and take it back in a direction that was vehemently objected to by commercial drone industry stakeholders over the last year.

Kittyhawk Supports Uniform, Realistic Regulations That Encourage Industry Growth

Enterprise drone programs, as with most businesses, are more likely to invest in their operations when they have regulatory certainty. If a fleet manager is concerned that the employees he or she sends out in the field to do drone operations will be harassed, arrested, or sued for doing their jobs, they will hesitate to invest in their drone program. Introducing legal risk is a quick way to limit enthusiasm for adopting any new technology, and drone adoption is no different.

At Kittyhawk, our goal is to power safe and compliant drone operations, and make it as easy as possible for our customers to complete their missions. Making airspace infinitely more complex than it already is and introducing increased legal risk will not support the growth of the commercial drone industry.

All these professionals should have to do when performing their work is to make sure that they are complying with regulations governing the airspace in which they plan to operate, and generally making sure that they are being respectful of folks on the ground. Allowing regulations to vary from state to state is problematic enough, but in a world where the regulations could vary from city to city or even block to block, it would be impossible to know that your operations are compliant. The risk averse may simply stop flying if they can’t.

Lastly, public acceptance is essential for the further growth of the commercial drone industry. Reasonable compromises embodied in the current ULC draft – giving property owners the ability to protect their rights to enjoy the use of their property while giving drone operators the regulatory certainty they need to operate – are exactly the type of regulations that will enable growth and public acceptance.


As we said a year ago, Kittyhawk stands for transparency, simplicity, and inclusion. It is vitally important that the ULC not make criminals out of commercial drone operators operating reasonably – whether that be media organizations with First Amendment rights or commercial drone programs that fly in all sorts of airspace all over the country.

We hope that the ULC decides to stick with the reasonable compromise that the current draft embodies, and doesn’t re-introduce already-discarded and unworkable restrictions on drone operations that would limit the growth of the commercial drone industry.

You can view a copy of the letter here.