The Drone Service Providers Alliance (DSPA) warns that drone federalism – the idea that states and local government should share control of the airspace – could be added to the budget bill under discussion in Congress today. The group is calling on the industry to contact their representatives about the issue.
Republic Senator Mike Lee of Utah introduced a “Drone Integration and Zoning” Act in 2019 that would have designated all airspace under 200 feet under the jurisdiction of state law. This proposal, which didn’t make it out of the Senate and was widely criticized, followed a proposal by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, known as the Drone Federalism Act. Feinstein’s proposal would also have granted states sweeping powers over the airspace.
Now, says the DSPA, Lee appears to be attempting to add a drone federalism segment to the Budget Bill before voting.
Why Drone Federalism is an Issue
These proposals could cause problems for the drone industry, and for the FAA. The FAA claims “pre-emption,” which means that they regulate all of the airspace in the United States. That’s all of the airspace, down to the ground. That’s a problematic concept for some homeowners, especially in the age of drones: and as it’s an issue without clear precedent, it’s one that is likely to be debated for many years to come.
While the FAA has tried through the UAS Integration Pilot Project (IPP) and it’s next phase, the BEYOND program, to bring state and local governments into the decision-making process, the issue of whether states should be allowed to regulate drones remains. If states are able to gain control over some of the airspace, that could result in a “patchwork quilt” of drone regulations across the United States – and open the door to different fee structures or taxation for use of the airspace.
Drones have become a new battleground issue for politicians – from security and privacy fears to private property rights. It’s up to the drone industry to educate lawmakers on the issues and potential unforeseen consequences of any regulation being considered.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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