The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently updated their Fact Sheet (2023) on State and Local Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The Fact Sheet serves as a comprehensive guide for state and local governments, providing them with valuable insights and direction on effectively responding to the growing presence of UAS in the national airspace.

The general balance between Federal and state authority in the context of aviation regulation is well established. The FAA has the exclusive authority to regulate aviation safety and the efficient use of the airspace by aircraft. Attempts by state and local governments to regulate in those fields are preempted. Outside those fields, the States are generally free to regulate—even by enacting laws that are aimed at or affect aviation—as long as their laws do not conflict with FAA regulations or relate to the prices, routes, or services of commercial air carriers.

The revised Fact Sheet provides a comprehensive overview of established legal principles governing federal authority in regulating airspace efficiency, encompassing the operation and flight of all aircraft, including UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems). It outlines the federal responsibility for ensuring the safety of flights and the protection of individuals and property on the ground arising from aircraft operations. The Updated Fact Sheet also sets for the the basic preemption framework applicable to UAS:

  •  States and local governments may not regulate in the fields of aviation safety or airspace
    efficiency but generally may regulate outside those fields.
  • A state or local law will be preempted if it conflicts with FAA regulations.
  • State or local laws affecting commercial UAS operators are more likely to be preempted.

In December 2022, the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) launched “Drone Prepared,” a multi-state initiative to help lawmakers ensure that their state or locality is ready for the benefits the future of uncrewed and autonomous flight will bring to their communities.

Throughout the 2023 legislative sessions, AUVSI  actively endorsed proposals across states nationwide aimed at fostering drone preparedness. These proposals had four main objectives:

  1. Encouraging the beneficial use of drones for the public’s advantage.
  2. Acknowledging and respecting the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in matters concerning airspace navigation and safety.
  3. Utilizing existing laws that already address issues like privacy and trespass concerns related to drone use.
  4. Advocating for technology neutrality, ensuring fairness and equal opportunities for various drone technologies.

For more information, please visit State and Local Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Fact Sheet by the FAA.

Post Image- Drone flying in the desert (Image Credit: TDyuvbanova)