Drone Regulations, When State Legislature Has Fallen Short.

A small town where I lived for many years, Breckenridge, Colorado, is commonly known for its majestic mountains, steep and deep powder turns and the charm of an old mining town. Regardless, if it is a resort town in the Rockies of Colorado or a suburb in Anywhere, USA, a town council and/or elected officials are faced to act on UAS (drone) regulation as it applies to their constituents and where their State Legislature may have fallen short.

The Breckenridge Town Council is currently weighing in on developing a new local ordinance to regulate the 'use' of drones in its jurisdiction. This is a common practice taking part throughout the United States as Legislatures seek guidance and structure for regulation in this rapidly growing industry.

The team at Autonomy Hub appreciates the dialogue and conversation as safety and privacy are paramount. What is most important for a Legislature to remember is that they need to focus on the "take off and landing" and not the airspace that is covered under FAA guidelines.

The FAA has "jurisdiction" over all airspace in the United States. Anyone that seeks to regulate the operation of UAS (drones) could open themselves up to a persuasive preemption lawsuit by a drone hobbyists or even the FAA.

Here are some key points for “creating a model drone ordinance”:

1) Get support from managers and council members from every city involved in the ordinance (if applicable) in order to ensure each city is engaged in the process.

2) Solicit input from the public.

3) Determine commonalities across each city. For example, safety issues near schools or hospitals; in order to create a better regulatory scheme across city lines, which can enhance enforcement.

4) Are there laws already in place that can be uses. For example, current privacy laws already codified in State law are considered applicable to drones, and often, a simple clarification is needed to know if a law already applies to drones.

5) A City's ultimate advantage is in their land use authority, not in overhead flight operations.

6) Remain “tech-neutral.” Consider not linking the ordinance to technology that could be irrelevant in a few short years. A “notification system” for drone operations could conflict with the FAA’s registration system already in place, raising an additional preemption issue.

7) Work alongside the FAA.

8) After creating the ordinance, collaborate with relevant stakeholders to educate the public.

Every pilot should "Know Before You Fly" and can review those responsibilities HERE.

Fly responsibly and safely.



The checklist was created with input from an ACC-OC working group, as well as reviewed by FAA senior attorneys. Reference Unmanned Aerial, Lillian.