The Drone Federalism Act of 2017, introduced by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein, Mike Lee, Richard Blumenthal, and Tom Cotton, seeks to “establish a process for federal, state, local and tribal governments to work together to manage the use of recreational and commercial drones.” This bill would allow “communities to create low-altitude speed limits, local no-drone zones or rules that are appropriate to their own circumstances. Blumenthal said, “This legislation protect the rights of state and local governments to implement reasonable restrictions on drones in their communities while ensuring that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) keeps our national airspace the safest in the world.” The bill would:

  • Keep the FAA’s general authority over national airspace while also preserving state, local and tribal government authority to issue restrictions on time, manner and place of drone operations within 200 feet of a ground structure.
  • Reaffirm that the federal government “will respect private property rights to the airspace immediately above a property, including the first 200 feet.”
  • Direct the FAA to work with a diverse group of cities and states to test different approaches, inform the unmanned traffic management pilot program and report best practices.

Lee said, “Disputes need to be decided at the local level, not with top-down proclamations from Washington.”

This bill has received support from the United States Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties, as well as the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures and National Association of State Aviation Officials. If this bill is passed, we could see disjointed drone laws, and many differing requirements from each state (or county), much like the varying data breach laws we have across the United States. We will keep you posted.