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Drones and Environmental Monitoring

February 2017

Citation: 47 ELR 10101

Issue: 2

Author: Joanna Simon, Amanda Essex, Joseph Muhlhausen and Jeramie Scott

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.

Joanna Simon (moderator) is an Associate with Morrison & Foerster LLP. Amanda Essex is an Attorney and Policy Associate with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Joseph Muhlhausen is the co-founder of CielMap. Jeramie Scott is the National Security Counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

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