New UAS-related laws make it to state, local governments

By Patrick C. Miller | July 31, 2014

State and local governments are passing their own UAS regulations, which could complicate the process of integrating the technology into the national airspace, according to a study by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Public concerns about privacy related to UAS operations “has created additional convolution,” the study said. State and local governments have proposed or imposed various laws and restrictions because of inaction on the federal level.

As a result, UAS stakeholders are facing a “changing regulatory landscape, further complicating research and development of their system,” according to the study by Embry-Riddle College of Aeronautics professors David Ison, Brent Terwilliger and Dennis Vincenzi.

The study also says that a “complex array of requirements and restrictions have been placed on UAS stakeholders by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)” while Congressional guidance has been “limited.”

States legislatures that have passed UAS laws include North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Delaware, Illinois, Texas, Montana, Idaho and Oregon. Alaska, Arizona, Missouri, Alabama and New Jersey have partially passed UAS legislative provisions. More than 20 other states are considering proposed UAS legislation.

Examples of state UAS-related laws passed include:

  • No weaponized systems
  • Restrictions on data collection
  • Deletion of data once used
  • Limiting the use of incidental data
  • Tracking and reporting of surveillance activities to legislative bodies
  • Exemptions for military uses

Local laws passed prohibit the use of weaponized systems, create “drone free” zones, restrict the purchase and use of UAS technology by municipalities and provide military exemptions.

The study says that state laws are more specific and protective of citizens while local laws are “less specific and more prone to moratoriums on use of adoption.” Few provide exemptions for UAS use by law enforcement.

One of the study’s conclusions claims that UAS measures passed by state and local governments have added a layer of regulation that complicates the manufacturer and operator landscape. It recommends further study to track legislation and implications for the UAS industry.