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Smart Government: New FAA rules reject Federal preemption of State drone laws

Jun 22, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC - Smart Government reported today that the FAA released its long-awaited final rules for small UASs (unmanned aircraft systems) or drones. The rules will allow anyone 16 years of age or older to operate a drone with minimal restrictions, so long as they pass a knowledge test.

The FAA in crafting their rules recognized the important role State and local officials play in protecting their communities. The FAA acknowledged that they were explicitly asked to preempt state and local rules and the agency rejected such calls, determining that preemption is not required and that State and local officials should have a voice. The FAA was presented with claims that “conflicting rules may lead to confusion” or may place a “burden on UAS users” or “delay the adoption of UAS technology” and the agency rejected all of these claims, specifically stating they were “not persuaded that including a preemption provision in the final rule is warranted.”

The FAA acknowledged the important role of state and local officials, stating “certain legal aspects concerning small UAS use may be best addressed at the State or local level.” The FAA noted privacy laws as one area of State and local concern and said that FAA regulations “are not the only set of laws that may apply to the operation of a small UAS.” The agency also noted, “depending on the specific nature of the small UAS operation, the remote pilot in command may need to comply with State and local trespassing laws.”

These statements reinforce earlier statements where the FAA admitted that “laws traditionally related to State and local police power—including land use, zoning, privacy, trespass, and law enforcement operations—generally are not subject to Federal regulation.”

This decision by the FAA is line with a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, which found that more than two-thirds of the US public does not support a federal take-over of drone regulations.

The FAA's conscious decision to exclude a federal preemption provision from its final drone rule reinforces the important role of cities and States in promoting safe and efficient drone activity in the nation’s airspace said Troy Rule, an associate professor at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

“The FAA is finally signaling to State and local governments that they are free to tailor supplemental drone regulations to suit the unique needs and preferences of their jurisdictions. As the agency’s final rule suggests, State and local involvement is critical to building an effective and well-functioning drone regulatory system. Hopefully, Congress will remember this when special interest groups resume their calls for broad drone law preemption legislation in the coming years,” Rule said.

Smart Government commends the FAA for addressing this important issue and recognizing that a “one-size-fits-all” approach would block State and local governments from adopting measures to carefully balance innovation with matters of distinctly local concern like trespass, nuisance, and privacy.

Smart Government: New FAA rules reject Federal preemption of State drone laws

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