Drone rules, regulations and laws have historically been somewhat fluid and subject to interpretation. To remedy the confusion, state legislators and city councils tried stepping in. For example, in California, a number of anti-drone bills were proposed and cities like Poway, California enacted city wide drone bans. However, on December 17, 2015, the FAA published the “State and Local Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Fact Sheet,” and in one single move have made it clear that when it comes to drones the FAA is the authority. According to the FAA, state legislators and city councils “have no business regulation” drones.
If there was any confusion about who had the authority to regulate drones in low-altitude skies, federal aviation officials have now cleared it up with this message to cities and states: Hands off, it’s all ours.
A fact sheet released Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration’s general counsel outlined the agency’s authority in the skies high and low. Presumably, they are hoping to preempt another year of state legislators and city councils trying to regulate what they have no business regulating.
According to the FAA, 45 states considered some sort of drone law in 2015. That included California, where bills to stop drones from flying over private property and increasing criminal penalties for reckless drone operators were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Some cities have also been trying to stop drones with bans that, the FAA now makes clear, they have no authority to issue.
While the FAA’s message is clear, it hasn’t stopped all drone legislation outside of their purview. For example, it appears that Senator Ted Gaines is still moving forward with his “Common-Sense Drone Legislation” plan.
One California legislator, Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado), has already announced plans for a package of drone legislation in 2016 that appears to fly in the face of the FAA’s authority by banning drones from flying over schools or prisons.
Will this change make drone rules, regulations and laws any less confusing? Your guess is as good as mine, so only time will tell.
If you find reading through the FAA website is overwhelming, then you might want to consider drone college. Drone rules, regulations and laws are topics that are covered in our new Consumer Drone Safety course and our commercial Introduction to Drones course.