Georgia’s HB 481 would prohibit local communities from enacting their own drone laws – a significant benefit to commercial operators in the state. But local governments are rushing drone ordinances through the system in anticipation.
HB 481, which cleared the House earlier this month by 164 Yeas to 1 Nay, claims state-level preemption for drone laws: something that the FAA has not been able to establish despite continued efforts.
The bill is simple in its intent and wording:
Any ordinance, resolution, regulation, or policy of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of this state regulating the testing or operation of unmanned aircraft systems shall be deemed preempted and shall be null, void, and of no force and effect; provided, however, that a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of this state may:
- Enforce any ordinance that was adopted on or before April 1, 2017;
- Adopt an ordinance that enforces Federal Aviation Administration restrictions; or
- Adopt an ordinance that provides for or prohibits the launch or intentional landing of an unmanned aircraft system from or on its public property except with respect to the operation of an unmanned aircraft system for commercial purposes.
The bill has the potential to set a positive precedent for the drone industry, which has struggled under the wave of local ordinances enacted in the last year, creating a complex and difficult operating environment. But community lawmakers are rushing to enact laws before the April 1st date, potentially causing more problems for operators in bypassing the usual comment periods. The City Council of Warner Robins, for example, approved an ordinance that restricts drones from flying over certain busy roads and over any incident in which public safety personnel are present. The ordinance also prevents flight over any public property – which includes public parks.
While the restrictions evidently did not appear to be overly prohibitive to the City Councilors, commercial applications could be significantly curtailed by the ordinance. In addition, potentially life saving applications, such as drone delivery of cardiac equipment or plasma to accident scenes could be limited by the rule, causing unintended consequences for the community.
While the ordinance would ordinarily have required a first reading and a vote at a subsequent meeting, local lawmakers decided to waive the first reading in order to get the ordinance passed by April 1st.