The Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has released a legal white paper that examines airspace law and proposes a framework for states and local governments to create legislation governing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones. The paper aims to facilitate the growth of the drone industry while ensuring that new laws do not violate current authorities.

“As the Drone Flies: How to Think About Property Ownership, Federal Preemption, and Airspace Control in the Era of Remotely Piloted Aircraft” is authored by Sara Baxenberg and Josh Turner, experienced drone and preemption attorneys at Wiley Rein who serve as outside counsel to AUVSI. They address two key legal issues: first, the rights of individual property owners in the surface of their property as compared to the airspace above, and second, the authority of states and localities given federal preemption in the fields of air navigation and aviation safety.

“While the advent of drones may appear to pose an inflection point for a variety of traditional legal concepts, these supposed conflicts are, in actuality, easily resolved,” said Sara Baxenberg, Partner at Wiley Rein LLP. “States can protect rights, interests, and assets in a way that ensures that the rules are clear for all stakeholders and all interests are adequately safeguarded.”

Michael Smitsky, Vice President, Government Affairs at AUVSI, said: “By following the legal principles in this paper, states can be on the forefront of attracting the drone industry to their state and unlocking the benefits it will bring to their constituents.”

During the 2023 state legislative sessions, AUVSI and the Drone Prepared coalition is supporting legislative proposals which adhere to the paper’s legal principles by: (1) Promoting drone use for public benefit; (2) Recognizing the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration over airspace navigation and safety; (3) Leveraging existing laws that already address concerns like privacy and trespass; and (4) Promoting technology neutrality.

Learn more about this initiative at

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