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Federal Law to Prohibit Low Flying Drones Proposed

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By Patrick Paul

On October 16, 2019 Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah introduced the Drone Integration and Zoning Act, a bill designed to establish a regulatory framework for drones based on the principles of local governance and cooperative federalism.  Under this bill, drone operations over private property at altitudes below 200 feet above ground level could be banned.

The bill is designed to encourage the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to involve local authorities more consistently with respect to regulation of drone operations.  Among other things, it would remove federal preemption of commercial drone regulation on rates, routes, and service and provide for greater state and local involvement in Unmanned Traffic Management testing and strengthen state and local authority impacting drone departure and landing zones.

In his introductory press release, Senator Lee noted the challenges associated with the FAA regulating the exponential growth of drone use in every locality throughout the country.  Specifically, Senator Lee stated, “[t]he reason that states have sovereign police powers to protect the property of their citizens is because issues of land use, privacy, trespass, and law enforcement make sense at the state and local level.”

Previous congressional efforts at strengthening the authority of state and local governments over drone use in their jurisdictions have been unsuccessful.  However, as drone use continues to grow and local issues of safety and privacy become more prominent, perhaps this bill will have a greater opportunity passage.