Drones and Privacy

by Timothy T. Takahashi, Ph.D.
14 Colum. Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 73 (Published March 23, 2013)


The Los Angeles Times recently reported the first instance in which military “drone” aircraft participated in the arrest of United States citizens on United States soil. A Customs and Border Protection Predator B drone played a key role in the arrest of Rodney Brossart and his three sons at their North Dakota ranch. With the conclusion of the Second Gulf War, pressures mount to utilize surplus drones and other quasi-military drone technology on the home front. This monograph summarizes the known facts of the Brossart case, describes the capabilities of military surveillance “drone” aircraft, and discusses whether a case similar to Brossart could serve as a catalyst for Supreme Court action. If such a case were appealed, the Supreme Court could issue a judgment articulating a new standard controlling how the Fourth Amendment governs robotic surveillance.

About the Author

Dr. Timothy T. Takahashi is a Professor of Practice – Aerospace Engineering, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Arizona State University. Ph.D. Mechanical and Aerospace Sciences – University of Rochester. J.D. – High Tech Law Certificate, Santa Clara University School of Law (expected May 2013).  Professor Takahashi currently teaches Aerospace Engineering at Arizona State University.  Before attending law school, he worked in the aerospace and defense sector. During his years in industry, he wrote many papers regarding the technical engineering aspects of advanced technology flying machines. This is one of his first published works concerning the public policy implications of emerging technology.

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