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Drones and commercial real estate

The skies over Missouri may soon be filled with small flying robots called drones. If the predictions of technology experts are to be relied upon, then the usage of hovering robotic drones is about to multiply beyond measure. Drones may soon be delivering items to the home, mapping construction sites and performing any number of other useful tasks. This expansion of activity has already brought with it legal issues as one user's choices could infringe upon other parties.

The airspace above and around commercial real estate has always presented something of a legal conundrum. However, the sparsity of usage of this space has prevented the problem from being pressing until now. Drones promise to populate this space with largely uncoordinated activity in the very near future. Some of the legal questions that have already been raised include privacy infringement, premises liability and the precise extent of a tenant's right to prevent unauthorized usage the airspace above a property.

In the absence of federal legislation, a wide variety of these legal questions might be answered by zoning laws. For example, a local zoning ordinance could regulate exactly how low a drone is allowed to fly over certain types of properties or the hours during which a drone could be operated.

Other issues will inevitably arise, including easements, trespass, rights of privacy, property damage and premises liability. Commercial real estate owners and occupiers who anticipate adopting the use of this type of technology in the future may want to discuss their plans with an attorney so that all areas of legal exposure can be examined.

Source: National Law Review, "Droning Along: What Commercial Real Estate Property Owners Should Consider in the Drone Age", Jennifer Smith, Nov. 15, 2016

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