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How to Write Rules for Drones on Your Property

The FAA’s recent publication of proposed drone regulations has made it clear that drones are coming, and they are coming soon to your property. This is definitely a positive thing – drones can offer convenience for tenants (like rapid deliveries) and new uses for property managers (like impressive aerial images of properties). However, while the proposed regulations are under review, it is worth considering how you want drones to operate on the properties you own and manage. Here are five questions to ask when doing so:

1) What uses are authorized?

The FAA regulations address operation and safety concerns, but they say little about the functions drones perform. Your property rules can dictate how tenants are permitted to use drones. Do you want to permit photography? Videos? Recreational use? How you limit drone use will depend on the needs of your tenants and the character of your property. 

2) How will you address privacy?

For obvious reasons, many people are nervous about drones with cameras flying too close to their apartment or office windows. Property rules can be utilized to limit how close drones can fly to windows and state clearly that your property has zero tolerance for violations of tenant privacy.

3) Where will deliveries go?

Although the FAA’s proposed rules do not anticipate delivery drones, numerous developers are experimenting with them. When companies begin using delivery drones, you might decide that you want to specify an area in the property where they can drop off packages. The alternative is for drones to bring deliveries to each individual unit. That can create confusion, as drones may deliver packages to the wrong tenant. By stipulating a single delivery location, similar to having mail delivered to a central bank of mailboxes, the drone policy can provide easy-to-understand directions for both companies and tenants.

4) How will you address liability?

When there are drones on your property, you have to have a plan for potential accidents. If a delivery drone drops a package on a tenant’s car, who is liable? By stipulating that owners of drones and recipients of deliveries from drones are liable for any damages or injuries caused, victims will be more able to identify who is financially responsible. Without dictating that delivery recipients are responsible for accidents, injured parties could be forced to seek damages from delivery companies, which can be a difficult process. 

5) How will you keep track of the drones on the property?

The proposed FAA rules anticipate that commercial drones will have identifying marks on them, and a similar system of registration could be a smart choice for your facility. Requiring tenants to register their drones will permit you to keep track of them for liability purposes.

Drones will be here sooner than you think. The right rules help to bring their benefits to your property. If you have questions about introducing new drones rules, seek the advice of an attorney, who can help you draft regulations that make sense for your property. 

John Frank Weaver is an attorney with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. He can be reached at john.weaver@morganlewis.com. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not represent the official positions of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

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