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Unmanned aviation systems, more commonly known as drones, have greatly expanded their presence over the past two decades. Once only used on—that is, above—the battlefield, drones are now everywhere, serving myriad functions. A drone can be flown by anyone, so long as its operator has the necessary training.
Albany Law School Professor Robert Heverly '92 has teamed up with Professor Brandon Behlendorf of the University at Albany's College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) to explore the legal issues surrounding this ever-more-ubiquitous technology. His course, "The Legal, Ethical, and Operational Impacts of Unmanned Aviation Systems," covers the laws and regulations that govern drones, and gives students from both Albany Law School and UAlbany the opportunity to take the controls at CEHC's newly unveiled drone flight facility.
"This class provides students with the unique ability to be on the cutting edge of an emerging field of law," said Professor Heverly. "And in the drone lab, they get hands-on experience safely and legally operating drones."
As part of the course, students receive preparation for and have the opportunity to earn a Remote Pilot Certificate with a small UAS rating from the Federal Aviation Administration—a necessary threshold for any commercial drone operator.
“Drone operators must be aware of the regulations that are in place to ensure not only their safety, but also the safety of our skies. Albany Law graduates who have taken this course are going to be there on the front lines.”
What's more important is that Albany Law students will learn how to effectively represent clients who use drones as part of their business, livelihood, or simply as a recreational hobby.
"Law students who take this course will develop a keen understanding of not just how to operate a drone themselves, but also how to represent their drone-operating clients before regulatory agencies and defend them in the courtroom," Professor Heverly said.
Professor Heverly earned his LL.M. from Yale Law School in 2002 and then taught at law schools in England and Germany. He returned to Albany Law School, his alma mater, in July 2010 and has led courses in Cyberspace Law, Torts, Art and Entertainment Law, and Intellectual Property.
This new course on drone law is something he has wanted to develop for years. Through Albany Law School's affiliation with UAlbany, an interdisciplinary approach to addressing the legal issues of drone operation has become a reality.
"Drone operators must be aware of the regulations that are in place to ensure not only their safety, but also the safety of our skies," he said. "And Albany Law graduates who have taken this course are going to be there on the front lines."