The Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA) is the governing body for all things that fly, and that includes the rules for personal and professional drones. As drone services have become more prevalent in the past half-decade, they’ve worked to establish universal regulations to help usher in the new technology while maintaining the safety and responsibility necessary to keep drones from becoming more of a hazard than help.
So why have towns in over 30 states enacted their own drone laws outside of the FAA? Most of these local rulings concern the flight of drones over personal and public property, but some operate in conflict with what the FAA deems legal and illegal, which sets these states up with the potential for some unfortunate courtroom conflicts.
But regardless of their intent, the main reason for local drone laws revolves around the fear and mistrust of drones. Currently, there are no FAA rules governing flight above residential property. This air is seen as “public,” as you don’t own the airspace above your house. If you did, planes wouldn’t exist as we know them today. But airspace above your home is just that – above it. It does not equate to the air outside your window.
Yet despite the privacy concerns, the cost of purchasing inspection-grade drones, as well as the skill it takes to fly them, has kept them from becoming the go-to-source for Peeping Tom’s nationwide. Add to the fact that they’re generating a billion dollar service industry, and citizens and businesses in these states are starting to see the real benefits outweigh the imagined costs.
This shift can be seen in municipalities and states with over-extended drone laws beginning to relax them of late. Take the Idaho state legislature, for example. The current code in Idaho states that emergency personnel can only use drones for emergency response situations, drug investigations, and search efforts. However, a new law is being introduced to expand emergency drone use to help document traffic accidents, manage foot and automobile traffic, and assist in firefighting efforts across the state.
While local drone laws may help the conscious, they hurt the reality of progress that aerial technology can achieve. As the legal ramifications of drone use settles further into FAA hands and outside of local governments, the drone industry can and will continue to rise to responsible legitimacy within the United States.