Drone Law Soup

Since I famously became a drone guy, I’ve been getting a wide-ranging education on many aspects of The Droniverse. I’ve been gathering little pieces of content and knowledge that I care about here on this page of this blog, and getting a lot of perspective from more experienced flyers through various user groups and forums. It gets more fascinating every day.

One aspect of dronery (I made that word up) that is truly astounding is just how royally dicked up the regulatory climate far and wide has become when it comes to flying our beloved unmanned aircraft systems. It doesn’t matter whether you are a hobbyist or an FAA-certificated Remote Pilot like myself, the legality of flying drones could not be in a worse state of disarray.

Looking at the FAA’s guidance, you wouldn’t think it could be that bad.

drone rules1

But it is THAT BAD. It seems like every state and many cities, universities, towns, villages, hamlets, and church choirs are making their own rules regarding drone flight. Forget that the FAA is federal and that many/most of these additional regs wouldn’t stand up in court- fighting City Hall ain’t cheap and few individuals are going to have the expendable coin to lawyer up on the issue (and there is no central lobbying force that I know of that could stand up against the growing regulatory morass).

But don’t take my word for it… let’s look at some real world examples.

Santa Clara University says “more no than yes” while Nebraska says “sure”, conditionally.

The State of Connecticut has rightfully recognized the FAA as the sole authority in this space, and it’s Public Act No. 17-52 “Prohibits cities and municipalities in the state from enacting their own drone-related regulations or ordinances.”

But then you have Delaware- despite also “preventing” municipalities from doing their own thing, one town did exactly that (from http://statedronelaw.com/state/delaware/):
Delaware

Hmmm. It just goes on and on. Here in my corner of the world, each of these has their own legislation/regulations on drone use (most flat-out prohibit drones, or make getting permission so impracticable as to equal prohibition:

And it gets worse… their are dozens of pending/proposed laws on the books in the Democratic People’s Republic of New York alone, not to mention all the legislative activity in other states aimed at drones. See many of them here– although I think this site is unaware of as many as it knows about.

As with any technology, drones can be used for good and by people who make a living from them doing really innovative things. And they can also be used for pure stupidity by peeping toms, beach pervies, village idiots and others in the “we need laws because of THESE morons” category. The problem is that our fine civil servants (I use to be one myself, so I know first-hand of what I speak) are too quick to group all drone operators into the same bucket, or have no clue on existing laws or where their own regulatory reach legally ends before passing new ordinances.

And… it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

If you are new to drones or thinking about getting into it, I have no doubt that you’ll find “flying legal” to be challenging in many, many locations. You may also be tempted to ignore the ugly patchwork of federal, state, and local laws and take your chances flying illegally. If you do, more power to you… but please remember that when you do the truly stupid stuff that becomes a nuisance, you set in motion a Butterfly Effect that ultimately makes life tough for those of us who strive to be legal.

Thanks for reading.

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