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Published on Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Need your help to ensure local authority over drones remains, contact U.S. Senators now

The United States Senate is currently considering a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration bill (H.R. 636), which includes a provision that would strip cities and states of our authority to regulate the use of drones in our communities.

As written, cities would not be able to determine flight paths or no-fly zones, and may not even be able to enforce existing nuisance and privacy laws.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) have introduced a bipartisan amendment (Senate Amendment #3558) that would preserve the balance of federal, state and local regulatory authority in order to ensure the continued safe integration of drones in our communities. Senate Amendment #3558 has broad support, including support from the National Governors Association (NGA), National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO).

In order to receive a vote on the Senate floor, we need to show Senate leadership that this amendment has broad, bipartisan support, so we are asking that you call Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray today and urge them to support Senate Amendment #3558.

Below are several talking points you may consider when speaking with Senate staff:

The FAA Bill includes overly broad language in Section 2152 that would immediately preempt any state or local law relating to the design or operation of drones, even before the FAA has developed any regulations of its own. This goes far beyond what is necessary to protect the federal airspace.

The limited protections in the bill for state laws or private lawsuits are inadequate, and would prevent many legitimate state or local laws, including:

  • Prohibitions on flying over an elementary school during school hours;
  • Procedures and warrant requirements for the police use of drones;
  • Restrictions on flights too close to private property, beaches, parks, or festivals;
  • Speed limits for drones, or prohibitions on flying too close to people; and
  • Redefining voyeurism, trespass, or vehicular manslaughter to include drone use.

The bipartisan Feinstein amendment fixes these problems by establishing the following:

  • State or local laws would be allowed to address the operation of drones unless the state or local law would undermine the effectiveness of a regulation that the FAA has issued.
  • Any federal regulation of drone operations would have to preserve state and local protections for public safety, privacy, schools, parks, police departments, etc.
  • Unlike the bill, the amendment protects local laws in addition to state laws, and even if they specifically apply to drones.
  • The FAA maintains exclusive authority over the design and manufacture of drones, allowing uniform national standards.
  • Allows state and local police to enforce the laws in partnership with the FAA, which will never have the personnel itself to police every area of the country.

The emergence of drones in our airspace have many exciting possibilities, but we also need the flexibility to ensure the policies governing their use makes sense for all communities. Please contact Washington's Senators today.

Categories: Federal