Margot E. Kaminski • 24 May 2013

Drone Federalism: Civilian Drones and the Things They Carry

The regulation of domestic drone use has been the subject of much media attention.  In addition to how much domestic drones should be regulated, scholars and policymakers are debating a more complex question, which is who should regulate drones. In this Essay, Margot Kaminski, Executive Director of the Yale Information Society Project,  suggests that civilian drone use should be regulated by states rather than the federal government. She argues that because civilian drone use implicates privacy issues that states have previously regulated through statutes and common-law torts, and because there is a tension between privacy and First Amendment concerns that states will navigate better than the federal government, state law should – at least for now – be the primary means of governing civilian drone overflights.