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Climate Drones: A New Tool for Oil and Gas Air Emission Monitoring

December 2016

Citation: ELR 11069

Author: Lucas Satterlee

In recent years, the proliferation of commercial drone or unmanned aircraft system (UAS) applications in the United States has generated significant discussion and controversy among legal scholars and practitioners attempting to navigate this budding industry. The drone phenomenon is just starting to catch on in the area of environmental monitoring and enforcement. There is immense potential for using drones to maximize an operation’s efficiencies while also reducing its environmental impact; one area that is particularly ripe for UAS integration is methane emission monitoring in oil and gas operations. However, the legal framework has been slow to catch up with the rapid growth of UAS capabilities. This Article examines the FAA’s regulatory process and identifies the best pathways for companies to integrate drones into their operations. It also addresses concerns related to the First and Fourth Amendments, in addition to the property rights conundrum surrounding the use of drones by agencies and other entities that conduct environmental monitoring.

Lucas Satterlee is an Associate at Stinson Leonard Street LLP whose practice is focused on environmental and natural resource law. He is part of the firm’s Unmanned Vehicles and Systems practice group. Lucas is a 2016 graduate of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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