Until recently, drone operations were the sole province of the military and hobbyists. The FAA reluctantly began regulating drone activity only after substantial public outcry regarding the safety of some hobbyist’s operations.
In 2014, the FAA began regulation by issuing special permits for all operators under a Section 333 exemption. For the most part, that process ended in 2016 and was fully replaced by a new section of the Federal Aviation Regulations in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act. Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (aircraft less than 55 pounds) are now regulated under Part 107 of the FARs, while larger aircraft are still handled on an exemption basis under 49 USC § 44807.
Drones continue to increase in size and complexity. They are also often operated closer to people than a helicopter or airplane. Drone accidents will increase in the future as will product liability claims that go along with those accidents. Lost-link scenarios and attendant collisions and airspace incursions will likely be the source of litigation, along with the fact that most drones cannot safely return to earth in the event of a power failure.