Drones and Environmental Monitoring
Aerial drones are emerging as an effective tool for environmental monitoring and enforcement because of their ability to reach areas that would be otherwise inaccessible or cost-prohibitive. However, the regulatory framework has not developed as fast as the technology, raising concerns. As EPA and other agencies consider using drones to monitor industrial sites and farmland, many landowners claim it would be an invasion of privacy. Using drones for inspections also raises legal questions about information obtained from drone flyovers and the associated evidentiary requirements. Fraught with legal uncertainty and significant public interest, the use of drones for environmental monitoring and enforcement raises important questions for many stakeholders. On August 30, 2016, ELI convened a panel to discuss drone use and regulation. Below, we present a transcript of the discussion, which has been edited for style, clarity, and space considerations.