In Her Own Words: Alyssa Sperrazza and the Law of Drones

August 22, 2023 | By Alyssa Sperrazza

For the summer of 2023, I was able to conduct research for the Advanced Air Mobility Institute. Working with this non-profit corporation, founded by OU Law alumnus Daniel Sloat, afforded me the opportunity to learn about this emerging legal field that will undoubtedly continue to grow in prominence.

Before law school, the only image of drones I had was corporations like Amazon trying to figure out new delivery systems or photographers who invested thousands for incredible aerial views. My understanding of drones and unmanned aviation systems expanded drastically this summer as I helped conduct research on several projects.

One area of research focused on both the legal and practical complications of using drones to deliver necessities and fresh produce to food deserts in conflict zones. This allowed me to examine both international and domestic laws and examine what methods have been tried and tested regarding the delivery into conflict zones and rural communities. For example, in Rwanda, groups have already developed methods of transporting time-sensitive medical supplies and blood transfusions to rural hospitals and treatment centers. By examining the effective methods used by this organization, we can analyze what would and would not work in a different environment like Sudan or Ukraine. Active warzones in Ukraine pose drastically different problems from poor infrastructure. For places experiencing heavy combat, solutions would have to alter, as would the legal approach. In Rwanda, the government has openly accepted this program and welcomes the positive effects it is having on rural communities with no access to hospitals or treatment centers. In Ukraine, especially cities under Russian occupation, the legal questions become more challenging to answer, especially pertaining to contested airspace.

I was also afforded the opportunity to assist in an RFI Response to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This request for information regarding Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) touched not only on the future impacts that AAM could have on the job market, but on environmental impacts, privacy concerns, the expansion of regulations, and more. This was the cumulative work of over 40 AAM experts and scholars, and I was honored to have contributed a small portion.

In my role on the research council, I've been able to touch on issues I had never been exposed to before and be reminded, yet again, of the incredibly wide breath of our daily lives that is touched by the law. I’m very grateful to Dan and OU Law for ensuring students have these opportunities to learn outside of the classroom.

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