The Property Drone Consortium (PDC) recently announced its opposition to The Drone Federalism Act of 2017, introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
The Drone Federalism Act of 2017 would give state and local governments much greater authority to regulate the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) than exists today. For example, the bill would grant state and local governments the right to issue a broad array of restrictions on the use of UAS below 200 feet above ground level, or within 200 feet of a structure. Such restrictions could include limitations on speed, times and days of use as well as prohibiting certain flight operations. In addition, the bill would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to prohibit UAS operations below 200 feet above ground level without the property owner’s permission.
Many of the public’s current negative experience with UAS are the result of improper utilization of UAS by hobbyists and recreational users. Commercial applications, such as for insurance claims and/or property inspections, are still in their infancy and have not exhibited any of the negative press mentioned above. The PDC believes it is premature for Congress to designate or transition any authority specifically to how UAS are utilized commercially to any state or local government. The PDC believes there will be critical commercial and governmental applications that can be conducted under 200 feet that will not impact an individual’s privacy or the enjoyment of their personal property. Businesses that operate nationwide, or even across several jurisdictions, would be greatly burdened if every state, county and/or city has a unique set of laws or regulations regarding UAS operations. Moreover, as the Section 333 process showed, obtaining the consent of every property owner for an operation can be difficult and time consuming and virtually impossible in certain circumstances. Such a law surely would slow the adoption of UAS for certain valuable applications.
“Through the Property Drone Consortium, we have a collective voice as an industry that needs to be heard in regard to legislation that would greatly affect our ability to use UAS in property inspections,” stated Charles Mondello, president, Property Drone Consortium. “This Act would require all business using UAS technology to be aware of individual state or local government’s regulations which can vary greatly, so living into this requirement will put an incredible burden on businesses that operate nationally.”
Despite its opposition to the bill, the PDC recognizes that there are critical policy issues that need to be addressed for UAS to reach their potential while protecting citizens’ rights to enjoy their private property. The PDC also appreciates that addressing these issues will require further clarification on the roles of federal, state and local authorities. As a result, the PDC has entered into public-private partnerships with several federal, state and local officials from across the country to better understand how UAS can be safely utilized to address commercial applications such as catastrophic events. It is therefore encouraged by the language in the bill that would require the FAA to establish pilot programs with state and local authorities to explore how best to address these critical issues. The PDC stands willing to work with the FAA on these matters regardless of whether such language becomes law.
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