Southwestern Law School
Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute
Using Drones in the News and Entertainment Industries:
Legal and Regulatory Issues

Friday, February 7, 2014

Program/Brochure (PDF)

Lunchtime Speakers

Matthew South, President , AUVSI, Channel Islands Chapter
Kate Styers, Principal Analyst, Tecolote Research, Inc
John J. Walsh, Jr., Assistant Professor and the Assistant Director
at the National Center for Emergency Preparedness, Vanderbilt University. 

Overview of Current Drone Usage

Civilian usage for drones (technically, remotely piloted aircrafts or RPAs) is
growing at an exponential rate. Key users are newsgathering and media
production. Highly capable camera-equipped RPAs’ costs are falling dramatically
and their small size will allow single journalist operation. Using RPAs can save
the lives of journalists and film crews. This session is about the “issues” of using
UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) - the reality, the misconceptions, and the


The First Amendment and RPAs

Drones/RPAs used for newsgathering and media production are tools that
engage First Amendment protected activities. What are the legal arguments
facilitating their deployment and protecting their editorial and creative use? Are
there any countervailing interests? If so, how should the newsgathering/media
production interests prevail?



Sharing the Airspace: The Current Status and the Future of FAA Regulations of RPAs

The ultimate goal is to enable the unrestricted use of drones in the national
airspace. The FAA is mandated under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of
2012 to have rules in place by 2015. But, journalists and media producers might
want to use “small drones.” Will there be proposed rules for sUAS (Small
Unmanned Aircraft System) by early in 2014? Will the industry be geared up for
that 90-day period for comment?




How ready is the underwriting industry to write policies for drone operators?
What are the crucial issues facing the underwriting industry? What will
underwriters consider as a risk that presents as “good risk”? Will newsgatherers
and media production companies contemplate using drones without proper


Frequency Spectrum Allocation

Access to dedicated, interference – free and secure radio frequencies is a
fundamental issue for drones operations. The two key aspects are getting
payload (e.g., video) data from the drone back to base and the command and
control signals to be able to properly operate the aircraft. And, it’s a security
issue: the drone needs to be protected in the electro-magnetic frequency space
from phishing, scamming and being hijacked.



Operators (manufacturers, too) must be aware of product liability and safety
issues. Consumer lawsuits will undoubtedly impact negatively on operators.
What are the considerations regarding product liability and product safety? How
can operators mitigate the risk of product related injuries and related lawsuits?
Who is liable for what?


Legislative Activities at the Local, State, Federal and International Levels

Using drones for newsgathering and media production is a game-changer. Media
lawyers will need to become conversant with aviation law(s) and regulations at all
levels – local/state/federal/regional and international. What should be taken into
account as regards cross-border use?



Audio Files (MP3)