While the FAA claims ultimate authority over regulating drones in the NAS, local governments continue to discuss state drone law.
Earlier this month, FlightGlobal published an interview with a former FAA Administrator who says that he fear the “patchwork quilt” of state drone regulations is growing – much of it based on misinformation and crafted by lawmakers who do not understand drone applications or the current applicable federal regulations:
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of ignorance and arrogance going on in state legislatures,” says Williams, who led the FAA’s UAS systems integration office before joining the Virginia-based public policy and regulation practice Dentons. “The state legislators say: ‘my constituents want me to do this and I don’t care what the federal government says. In this state, this is what we’re going to do.’
“The patchwork is already out there and it will be some time before it gets dampened down.”
That seems, unfortunately, to be true. Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Folmer told a local PA radio station yesterday that he’d like to “rein in” the use of drones by local governments, and will be holding more hearings on drone use in order to formulate regulations. California made DRONELIFE’s list of “Worst States for Drones” due to its lawmakers’ seeming obsession with drone regulation. Kentucky has actually made it legal to shoot down drones that may appear to infringe upon privacy. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 41 states have discussed drone regulations, with 29 passing state drone law and 6 adopting resolutions.
Some states have decided to regulate in support of drone operators and federal authority. In Louisiana, state senators recently rejected a bid to add drone regulations to Louisiana’s criminal statutes, saying that the proposal could have had “unintended consequences” for recreational drone users. Arizona’s governor signed a bill which “Prohibits a city, town or county from enacting an ordinance, rule or policy relating to the ownership or operation of an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system. Voids any ordinance, rule or policy in violation.” Alaska has adopted a resolution in support of the aviation industry, allotting state land for drone testing. And earlier this month, the governor of Georgia vetoed a bill that would have enacted drone regulations in his state, saying that he believed the state should give the FAA a chance to come out with their regulations first: “Signing this bill prior to the release of the FAA guidelines would create a layer of state regulation that may be vitiated by future FAA action and would also grow state government by creating a wholly new quasi-legislative body to produce future rules and regulations.”
As drone industry stakeholders await drone integration guidelines from the FAA, the “patchwork quilt” of drone regulations across the states grows in complexity; and it may take time to unravel laws already in place when federal regulations are finally enacted.