Proposed Law Would Let Local Governments Legislate Drones

Jun 28, 2017

The move to monitor and legislate drones could go local.

Congressman Jason Lewis (R-MN) recently introduced the Drone Innovation Act into Congress that would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to work with state and local governments to regulate drones. According to Government Technology, which spoke with Lewis, the bill has bipartisan support and would give state and local governments the ability to decide for themselves regulations for drones flying 200 feet or under over their municipalities.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are quickly becoming highly sought-after products. The devices allow users to fly their drones hundreds of feet in the air and capture video and still images. They've proven a boon for photographers and videographers, as well as those who want to explore different parts of their surroundings.

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However, drones also present some challenges. Most industry experts believe the number of drones entering the airspace will rise considerably in the coming years, and there's increasing concern that they could complicate air traffic.

Given that, both lawmakers and the U.S. Department of Transportation are working on ways to regulate drones and ensure safety.

The Drone Innovation Act suggests local municipalities might prove most adept at determining what's right for their communities. And in an interview with Government Technology, Lewis said that the bill could also protect the privacy and property rights of people living in different municipalities. He cited an example in which a neighbor could be using a drone to peer into another person's window at night. It wouldn't be appropriate, Lewis said, for the person whose privacy has been violated to be forced to call a national entity to report the problem.

Still, the law only affects drones flying at 200 feet or lower. Those flying higher than that will still be monitored by federal regulators.

It's unknown at this point whether the bill will ultimately find its way to approval. However, Government Technology noted that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned against municipalities governing drones, saying that it would create a "patchwork quilt" of regulations and ultimately create more trouble.

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