Meet Your Host: The Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy

On October 11-13, the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference will bring together experts with an extraordinary range of backgrounds and knowledge for the first multidisciplinary conference exploring  the impact of unmanned aerial systems on society.

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This unprecedented gathering of interdisciplinary expertise is being organized by the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy, an interdisciplinary center housed at NYU School of Law, that focuses on  legal and policy issues related to innovation, such as intellectual property, information, and competition law.

So why are we interested in drones and hosting DARC?

In 2012, Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, tasking the Federal Aviation Administration with the development of a plan for safely integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into domestic airspace by 2015. Safely introducing drones into our skies is, in itself, a daunting task—it takes little effort to envision nightmarish scenarios of errant drones causing plane crashes, personal injury, and property damage. But more than safely introducing drones into our airspace, we need to safely introduce them into society.

There is currently no comprehensive framework for governing the civilian use of unmanned aerial vehicles. While the FAA’s forthcoming plan is an important starting point, the FAA is neither empowered nor equipped to resolve the plethora of concerns associated with civilian drones. It is important to remember that any comprehensive framework will also be shaped by the expertise and work of a number of other parties. We can expect (and have already begun to see) parallel activity at other agencies invested in the successful integration of unmanned systems, such as NASA, NOAA, and the NTSB. And as anxieties rise over the proliferation of unmanned systems, we should expect to see those anxieties reflected throughout our legislative and judicial systems as well. With so much work occurring across such a distributed network of relevant bodies, each with different priorities and expertise, we hope that organizing DARC the way we have—as a diverse think-tank—will highlight the benefit to be derived from an interdisciplinary approach that considers law and policy issues from myriad perspectives.

More specifically, drones herald an explosion of technological innovation and open the door for exciting new applications of existing technology. But they also induce anxiety over issues like privacy and due process, concerns only exacerbated by the availability of highly capable drones to anyone with a few hundred dollars. Striking a balance between protecting public interests and promoting innovations that stand to substantially benefit society forces a broad reconsideration of the laws, policies, and regulatory frameworks that will determine the way drones are incorporated into our lives. The Engelberg Center is one of the premier intellectual centers studying the relationships between law, policy, and technology, and the effects of those relationships on society.  The complexity of these interrelations is no better illustrated than by the duality of promise and peril presented by drones, and we look forward to contributing our expertise and network to tackling complicated questions of law and policy, particularly as they relate to innovation.

The timeline for the integration of drones also presents a unique chance to guide the development of relevant law and policy ahead of a technology’s wide-scale, mainstream adoption. It is perhaps the first time that we have had the occasion or ability to bring the expertise and knowledge of so many to bear on the direction of a technology with such landscape-altering potential. As a center that cares deeply about having a positive impact on the innovation community, we’re thrilled at the opportunity to provide the first forum for exploring the difficult questions that come along with the introduction of such a compelling technology. Register now and join us in taking this important first step towards the development of a constructive law and policy agenda.

To learn more about the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy, visit our website at nyuengelberg.org.

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