White House Creates Pathway for Local Drone Regulation

Wikimedia Commons Photo: AgnosticPreachersKid

The White House announced Wednesday a pilot program for state and local governments to work with the private sector to develop ways local concerns can be incorporated into the regulation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

“Input from state, local, tribal, and private-sector stakeholders will be necessary to craft an optimal strategy for the national management of UAS operations,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “A coordinated effort between the private sector and among these governments will provide certainty and stability to UAS owners and operators, maximize the benefits of UAS technologies for the public, and mitigate risks to public safety and security.”

The administration plans to launch a program of public private partnerships in the next 90 days to test and evaluate various models for incorporating state and local governments in the process of developing and enforcing federal regulations for drone operations. The focus will be on flights below 200 feet though that could be extended to 400 feet, thereby incorporating most, if not all, of the flights allowed under the current Part 107 rules. More details on the 3-year effort are to be released soon.

“The FAA has been wrestling with this for probably a year,” said Marke “Hoot” Gibson, the Federal Aviation Administration’s senior advisor on UAS integration.

“It’s a complex problem,” he told attendees at Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas. This will be a great pilot program to learn the lessons we need to learn.”

“I think it’s a virtual certainty you will see state and local rules on UAS,” said, Thomas Swoyer, president of the Grand Sky Development Company. “Whether it’s inspired by a desire to control the economic development or to promote it or desire to protect for privacy — or more recently, what I’m seeing is an issue of who actually owns the data that is created by the flight of the aircraft. I think it’s a virtual certainty.”

The question we have to ask ourselves, Swoyer said, is if this will remain a patchwork of incongruous rules or whether there will be an umbrella set of rules everyone can live with.