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Oct 17, 2019 | FAA, News

Drone Integration and Zoning act of 2019 introduced by Utah Senator

Representative Mike Lee is at it again. A few years after the Drone Federalist Act of 2017 failed to gain any traction, the Republican Utah Senator introduced a new bill, yesterday, that will allow cities, states, and Native American tribes to set their own rules on low-flying drones, effectively overriding regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

“The FAA cannot feasibly or efficiently oversee millions of drones in every locality throughout the country,” Sen. Lee said. “The reason that the states have sovereign police powers to protect the property of their citizens is because issues of land use, privacy, trespass, and law enforcement make sense at the state and local level. The best way to ensure public safety and allow this innovative industry to thrive is to empower the people closest to the ground to make local decisions in real time and that is exactly what the Drone Integration and Zoning Act does.”

The Drone Integration and Zoning act of 2019, if successful, would establish new rules for airspace 200 feet above ground. Property and homeowners would have full control over the first 200 feet of airspace above their land while states and local jurisdictions could further dictate regulations when it comes to the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles for both recreational and commercial purposes. Above 200 feet, existing FAA rules would apply. 

Currently, 34 out of 50 U.S. states, including California, have counties that impose their own regulations and restrictions on drone use. This new bill would complicate matters even further for operators looking to conduct inspections and other useful operations that are suited specifically for small unmanned aerial vehicles. In a statement to Axios, DJI’s Director of U.S. legislative affairs, Mark Aitken, said the bill would “spur state and local governments across the country to impose harsh and conflicting taxes and fees on professional and recreational drone flights, throttling an industry still in its infancy.”

Currently, Jason Harrison and the Michigan Coalition of Drone Operators are fighting Genesee County’s illegal ordinance. A follow up hearing is scheduled for Friday, November 8th, in Flint, Michigan. While yesterday’s latest attempt at allowing a patchwork of drone laws to be established will likely go nowhere like its predecessor, given Congress has more important matters to address, the Drone Federalist Act of 2017 did receive strong local and statewide support. Regular InterDrone participant Douglas Spotted Eagle, of Sundance Media Group, encourages everyone to write to their Senator and explain the mess the Drone Integration and Zoning act of 2019 would effectively create.