Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters


This article reviews and assesses current state legislation regulating law enforcement use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The legislation runs the gamut of permissive to restrictive and even utilizes different terms for the same object of regulation, UAS. These laws are the confused and at times even contradictory extension of societal views about UAS. The article reviews the U.S. Supreme Court’s manned aircraft trilogy of cases, California v. Ciraolo, Florida v. Riley, and Dow Chemical v. U.S. and two significant technology based decisions, Kyllo v. U.S. and U.S. v. Jones, and applies them to current state efforts to regulate law enforcement UAS use. The current state legislation regulating law enforcement UAS use is but the first round of experiments. But it is important to take stock of what state legislation would currently allow law enforcement to do with UAS. This article examines these state labs of federalism to identify at what point, and which state UAS experiments, the Supreme Court may rule constitute a search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Publication Title

Washington and Lee Law Review

Document Type



Drone, technology, unmanned aerial system, UAS, state, federalism, 4th Amendment, Constitution, Ciraolo, Riley, Dow Chemical, Kyllo, Jones, autonomous



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