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Monday, April 21, 2014

North Dakota: A State Without Drone Restrictions

I have written a number of posts on state drone laws in an effort to highlight different approaches that states may take in regulating this new technology. But I have not yet written about states that have chosen to leave drones unregulated.

North Dakota is one such state. Currently, there are no laws in North Dakota that directly restrict the use of drones, both by the government and by members of the public. This means that members of the public can freely use drones without running into trouble with state law enforcement. The possibility of federal interference remains a possibility, but a relatively low one.

North Dakota law enforcement is taking advantage of the lack of regulation. In a highly publicized case, law enforcement officers used a predator drone to apprehend several suspects who had previously resisted police officers' attempts to force the return of several stolen cows. While the suspects challenged officers' use of the drone as a violation of their Fourth Amendment freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, the court rejected this challenge.

I think that drones can be useful while remaining non-intrusive, and I think that state legislatures should take a lighter approach towards regulating drone use -- especially drone use by private actors. It will be interesting to see if states like North Dakota without drone restrictions continue to take advantage of drone technology for law enforcement, and whether highly publicized cases of police drone use end up prompting regulation.

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