One of the major issues facing the commercial drone industry is the lack of certainty in the regulatory environment. Multiple state and local municipalities have passed drone related laws and ordinances, but as the recent decision in Singer v. City of Newton, Case No. 1:17-CV-10071-WGY demonstrates, any such ordinances that seek to regulate drone operations, as opposed to addressing issues such as privacy or 4th Amendment considerations, will face the significant impediment of federal preemption.
Given the foregoing, policy makers have been examining various avenues for allowing state and local municipalities to have a say in regulating certain drone operations. Most recently, word is spreading that the White House is contemplating several model programs that would experiment with shared oversight for drone operations between the FAA and local governments. At least one published report suggests the plan envisions the FAA continuing to retain oversight of operations between 200 and 400 feet, with responsibility for oversight of operations below 200 feet being largely delegated to local authorities. Further details on how and where the model programs would be implemented and the true scope of the divvied up authority remain to be seen, but we will provide updates in future blog posts as those details come to light.