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FMG Law Blog Line

Posts Tagged ‘drones’

How Technology is Changing the Construction World

Posted on: October 8th, 2019

By: Aaron Miller

The construction industry is growing at an enormous rate.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the industry to add over 800,000 jobs between 2016 and 2026, finishing top amongst goods-producing industries.  Part of the reason for such a high rate of growth in the construction industry is the advent of new technology which not only enables contractors to keep costs down, but has been a big factor in the construction industry being able to add more jobs at such a high rate.

One of the fastest-growing technological advancements assisting the construction industry are drones.  While lower-end models can cost a few thousand dollars, the upper models can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000.  Although this may seem like a substantial cost, there are substantial cost-savings and benefits associated with the use of drones.  Drones can assist with multiple areas of construction, such as 3-D mapping for site surveying of unstable or inaccessible terrain, inspections of unsafe locations, and damage assessments.  It is expected that over the next few years, the influx of new models into the market will make the cost much more palpable, even for smaller projects.

While drones are readily available to assist in construction projects in the present, technology will drastically change the construction industry in the not so distant future.  Researchers at MIT are currently working on robots, called Fiberbots, a digital fabrication platform that utilizes a series of small robots that work cooperatively to create fiber-based structures.  While the robots have so far only built tubular structures that are more for show than utility, the structures did survive outside during the Massachusetts winter, proving that they could be used in the future on permanent construction projects. In addition, the robots would be able to reach tighter areas less suitable for a human worker.

With the advent of new technology, comes new legal concerns as well.  The use of drones and robots opens up users to a variety of new legal issues. For example, who is contractually responsible for the use of the technology, the provider or the purchaser?  Is additional training for construction workers required? How should risk be allocated if an injury or building defect occurs due to use of the advanced technology?  While the advent of AI and other new technology will no doubt benefit the construction industry, we can expect legal developments will follow.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Aaron Miller at [email protected].

Drones Regulation Deadline Missed by FAA

Posted on: October 2nd, 2015

By: Wayne Melnick

In the recent past, I blogged a series of articles regarding the possible legal and insurance ramifications of law enforcement drone usage. These included blogs on risk questions related to government drone usage how drones can be used to capture tough to obtain data, and North Dakota becoming the first state to legalize the less lethal use of force by drones.

As noted in the first blog, the Department of Justice was considering enacting guidelines for such use. In 2012, Congress instructed the FAA to integrate drones into US airspace. The Congressional deadline for the issuance of these regulations was on September 30, 2015. However, the FAA failed to issue the guidelines in question. Although preliminary rules for small commercial drones were proposed by the FAA in February, those rules have not been finalized.

What does this mean? It means that the use and operation of drones, both by governments and commercial businesses, remains a rocky, unsettled area of the law and that those entities using such devices do so at high risk. We will continue to monitor the regulation process. However, the original recommendation remains: Any time there is new technology that is emerging, it is imperative for both the insurer and the insured to review their current policy language to determine what is, and just as importantly, what is not, included in coverage.

 

Taser Drones for Police Officers – Now a Reality?

Posted on: September 1st, 2015

By: Wayne Melnick

In the past, I blogged a series of articles regarding the possible legal and insurance ramifications of law enforcement drone usage. For quick reference you can find the blogs here and here.

In the latest twist on law enforcement drone use, despite all the recent publicity regarding the militarization of local police departments, North Dakota has become the first state to legalize (or at least authorize) its police to equip drones with “less lethal” force.  Although the bill was originally drafted to ban all weapons on police drones, following amendment in committee, North Dakota HB1328 came out of committee limiting the prohibition to only “lethal” weapons.  That omission, whether intentional or not, allows for “less lethal” or “less than lethal” weapons to be used on drones. Less lethal force has traditionally included Tasers, stinger balls, bean bags, rubber bullets and even flash bang “grenades.” Understand, of course, that having the authority to use such technology does not mean that it is going to actually be used; at least not immediately.

The potential insurance and legal risks associated with local police forces arming drones with less than lethal force is potentially staggering – especially in light of the fact that there are no standards associated with the use of less than lethal force in such situations. We will continue to monitor this situation to see if any other states follow suit in allowing drones to be armed in this manner – and whether any police force actually utilizes this technology.

For now, it is incumbent upon insurers and police departments to review their risk associated with such a use of “less lethal” drones and whether the policies and coverage in place are sufficient for this brave new frontier of law enforcement.

Insurance Drones: Using Modern Technology to Capture Tough-to-Obtain Data

Posted on: October 9th, 2014

By: Wayne S. Melnick

Last year, I blogged on the possible legal and insurance ramifications of law enforcement drone usage.  The topic of drone-usage in the insurance world again came to the forefront of news when last week USAA asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drone aircraft for use in future claims assessments.

According to this article, the San Antonio-based insurance company who specializes in coverage for military families “wants to begin testing small, unmanned aircraft systems that can record data over areas that have been damaged as the result of a natural disaster.”  According to Alan Krapf, president of USAA’s property and casualty insurance group, “We’re constantly seeking ways to better serve our members, especially during catastrophes, when getting into neighborhoods immediately after can be dangerous to human life, and applying new technologies is one way we can do that.”

The use of the drones is obvious in that not only could the drones be used to survey large areas affected by natural disaster, but it could also to allow the viewing of otherwise hard to get to areas – such as viewing rooftops suffering hail damage or other property damage claims.  USAA says it has teamed up with Texas A&M University in School Station and Robotocists With no Borders to study how to use drones for its insurance organization.  According to Kathleen Swain, USAA employees underwriter and FAA-rated business pilot and flight instructor, quoted in this article, “We believe this investigation can lead to safer, quicker and far more economical claims service for our members and their communities.  This research could lead to market breakthroughs that assist make an very hard time for individuals a minor simpler.”

The use of drones continues to be a new frontier in insurance examination.  How much expansion will be allowed is, at least for the time-being, subject to FAA approval.  It is expected that as new and creative uses for this tool becomes available, that insurers will continue to seek further expansion of drones use in investigating claims.

Use of Drones in Law Enforcement – A Good Idea?

Posted on: September 14th, 2012

By: Sun Choy

USA Today recently reported that the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued advisory guidelines for the use of drones by law enforcement.  While the number of drones in use is relatively low, the IACP anticipates the increased use of drones as costs come down.  Not surprisingly, the guidelines discourage the use of “armed” drones that have the capability of delivering stun-gun projectiles, tear gas, and rubber balls.  The guidelines also recommend that officers obtain a search warrant before using the drones for surveillance.  With such advancements in technology, there will certainly be litigation as the law plays catch-up.