Proposed Drone Legislation


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Safe Drone Act of 2017 (S. 1410 from Sen. Warner)

 

drone-legislation-capitol-buildingInterested in drone legislation? Click here for my U.S. drone legislation directory.

Background of the Safe Drone Act of 2017

On June 22, 2017, Senator Warner of Virginia introduced into the Safe Drone Act of 2017. The act is supported by Sen. Hoeven, Sen. Cortez Masto, and Sen. Heller.  On the day it was introduced, it was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

My guess is that like most drone legislation, the Safe Drone Act will not go anywhere.

Summary of the Safe Drone Act of 2017

-Calls for the FAA to create guidance for rapid issuance of exemptions, waivers, or authorizations for disasters.

-Calls for the DOT and NASA to work on a plan to create an unmanned traffic management system to be presented within a year.

-The DOT is to designate a group of 2 year colleges and trade schools centers of excellence.

-5 million is to be given to implement the section defining the centers of excellence.

-The creation of a working group on spectrum management and a call for a report to congress.

-Calls for a working group on beyond the visual line of sight of the operator and over people operations.

-Requires the FAA to start rulemaking to create regulations for “operations over people, operations beyond the visual line of sight of the operator, operations at night, and operations of multiple unmanned aircraft systems[.]”

-Gives 14 million EACH year to the FAA to split up among the test ranges for research and development.

-Modifies the definition of the Section 336 protected flyers to make them obtain prior authorization prior to operating in B,C, D, or E at the surface airspace; registration; and requires that the flyers completes an online safety course.

-Defines a community based organization and calls for the FAA to create a list of community based organizations that is publicly accessible.

-Directs the director of the Office of Management and Budget to “exempt from the definitions of “regulation” and “rule” for the purposes of that Executive order any final action taken by the Secretary of Transportation or the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration on or after January 30, 2017, primarily related to unmanned aircraft systems.”

-Tells the Comptroller General to submit a report to congress on developments and protections relating to cybersecurity and operational control concerns with respect to unmanned aircraft systems, recommendations for developments and protections, and recommendations for clearly defining Federal jurisdiction and oversight of unmanned aircraft system security matters.

Pros:

-There is money attached to some of these directives such as the test rangers doing R & D and the implementation of the centers of excellence.

-There is an emphasis on getting 2 year colleges and technical school to start training people to use drones.

Cons:

-Prior authorizations for model aircraft flyers? Are you insane!  The system is extremely swamped and it would greatly cause backlogs.

-There is nothing in here regarding telling the FAA to step up enforcement actions against drone flyers or appropriating money to hire more attorneys to prosecute.

-Looks like a land grab by the AMA to try and get themselves defined as a CBO and maybe start making it harder for others to get listed as such.

Questions Raised by/Suggestions for Safe Drone Act:

Section 3 wants the FAA “to publish guidance for applications for, and procedures for the processing of, on an emergency basis, exemptions or certificates of authorization or waiver for the use of unmanned aircraft systems by or on behalf of civil or public operators in response to a catastrophe, disaster, or other emergency[.]”  The FAA already does this with the ACOA process for civil and public aircraft operators so I’m not sure why this is even in here. Maybe they want rapid exemptions and waivers done but why would you want that? Emergency personnel and first responders should have their act together before a disaster.

Seriously, get some money to the FAA to hire more attorneys. Additionally, there should be a call from Congress to change the FAA’s position on enforcement actions. The FAA has done very little enforcement under their relaxed enforcement standards.

 Actual Text of the  Safe Drone Act

 

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Safe Development, Research, and Opportunities Needed for Entrepreneurship Act of 2017” or the “Safe DRONE Act of 2017”.

 

SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.

Except as otherwise specifically provided, in this Act, the terms “unmanned aircraft”, “unmanned aircraft system”, and “small unmanned aircraft” have the meanings given those terms in section 331 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–9549 U.S.C. 40101 note).

 

SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS ON EMERGENCY EXEMPTION PROCESS.

It is the sense of Congress that the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration should comply as soon as possible, and not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, with the requirement under section 2207 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (Public Law 114–19049 U.S.C. 40101 note) to publish guidance for applications for, and procedures for the processing of, on an emergency basis, exemptions or certificates of authorization or waiver for the use of unmanned aircraft systems by or on behalf of civil or public operators in response to a catastrophe, disaster, or other emergency to facilitate emergency response operations, such as firefighting, search and rescue, post-catastrophic response operations, such as utility and infrastructure restoration efforts, and the safe and prompt processing, adjustment, and payment of insurance claims.

 

SEC. 4. PLAN FOR FULL OPERATIONAL CAPABILITY OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT.

(a) In General.—The Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and industry stakeholders, shall develop an implementation plan to achieve full operational capability of unmanned aircraft systems traffic management (in this section referred to as “UTM”) and ensure the safety and security of all aircraft.

(b) Requirements.—In developing the plan required by subsection (a), the Secretary shall—

(1) establish a timeline for certifying an operational capability of UTM as safe and approved for use;

(2) establish criteria to be used to certify a UTM system under paragraph (1), including the demonstration and validation of such a system at the test ranges designated under section 332(c) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–9549 U.S.C. 40101 note); and

(3) outline the roles of industry and government in establishing an operational UTM.

(c) Assessments.—The plan required by subsection (a) shall include an assessment of various components necessary for and possible with the full operational capability of UTM, including—

(1) identification of unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system;

(2) deconfliction of unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system;

(3) mitigation of effects of unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system;

(4) the extent that UTM may rely on or use resources of the Federal Government;

(5) the need for additional detect-and-avoid technologies to detect cooperative and noncooperative aircraft;

(6) interoperability with traditional air traffic management services and technology;

(7) the potential for UTM to manage higher altitude operations of unmanned aircraft systems and unmanned aircraft systems weighing more than 55 pounds; and

(8) cybersecurity protections and national security benefits.

(d) Deadline.—Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall—

(1) complete the plan required by subsection (a);

(2) submit the plan to—

(A) the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate; and

(B) the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives; and

(3) publish the plan on a publicly accessible Internet website of the Federal Aviation Administration.

 

SEC. 5. COMMUNITY AND TECHNICAL COLLEGE CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE IN SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM TECHNOLOGY TRAINING.

(a) Designation.—Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Labor, shall, subject to paragraph (2), designate consortia of public, 2-year institutions of higher education as Community and Technical College Centers of Excellence in Small Unmanned Aircraft System Technology Training (in this section referred to as the “Centers of Excellence”).

(b) Functions.—The Centers of Excellence shall seek to expand their capacity to train students for career opportunities in industry and government service related to the use of small unmanned aircraft systems, including by—

(1) admitting more students;

(2) training faculty;

(3) expanding facilities;

(4) establishing new career pathways from secondary school to associate degree and baccalaureate degree programs; and

(5) awarding credit for prior learning experience, including military service.

(c) Education And Training Requirements.—The Centers of Excellence shall address education and training requirements associated with various types of small unmanned aircraft systems, components, and related equipment, including with respect to—

(1) multi-rotor and fixed-wing small unmanned aircraft;

(2) flight systems, radio controllers, components, and characteristics of such aircraft;

(3) routine maintenance, uses and applications, privacy concerns, safety, and insurance for such aircraft;

(4) hands-on flight practice using small model quadcopters and computer simulator training;

(5) use of small unmanned aircraft in various industry applications and local, State, and Federal Government programs and services, including in agriculture, law enforcement, monitoring oil and gas pipelines, natural disaster response and recovery, fire and emergency services, and other emerging areas;

(6) Federal policies concerning small unmanned aircraft;

(7) dual credit programs to deliver small unmanned aircraft training opportunities to secondary school students; and

(8) training with respect to sensors and the processing, analyzing, and visualizing of data collected by small unmanned aircraft.

(d) Collaboration.—The Centers of Excellence shall seek to collaborate with institutions participating in the Alliance for System Safetyof UAS through Research Excellence of the Federal Aviation Administration and with the test ranges designated under section 332(c) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–9549 U.S.C. 40101 note).

(e) Authorization Of Appropriations.—There are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of Transportation $5,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2018 through 2023 to carry out this section.

(f) Institution Of Higher Education.—In this section, the term “institution of higher education” has the meaning given the term in section 101 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001).

 

SEC. 6. INTERAGENCY WORKING GROUP ON COORDINATED FEDERAL POLICY FOR COMMUNICATIONS AMONG UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS.

(a) Sense Of Congress.—It is the sense of Congress that—

(1) a Federal policy for communications among unmanned aircraft systems, which may include communications through spectrum, wireless, or broadcast networks, or other means, requires coordination among Federal agencies in order to facilitate the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system; and

(2) a policy described in paragraph (1) should ensure safety, promote investment, and foster innovation to benefit all unmanned aircraft systems stakeholders, including manufacturers, operators, and consumers.

(b) Establishment Of Working Group.—Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Assistant Secretary and the Chairman shall establish a working group to make recommendations with respect to the coordination of Federal policy for communications among unmanned aircraft systems to facilitate the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.

(c) Membership.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The working group established under subsection (b) shall be composed of Federal stakeholders described in paragraph (2) and non-Federal stakeholders described in paragraph (3).

(2) FEDERAL STAKEHOLDERS.—The Federal stakeholders described in this paragraph are representatives of—

(A) the National Telecommunications and Information Administration;

(B) the Federal Communications Commission;

(C) the Federal Aviation Administration;

(D) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration;

(E) the Department of Defense;

(F) the Department of Homeland Security;

(G) the Department of Justice; and

(H) any other Federal agency the Assistant Secretary considers appropriate.

(3) NON-FEDERAL STAKEHOLDERS.—The non-Federal stakeholders described in this paragraph are representatives of—

(A) unmanned aircraft systems manufacturers;

(B) unmanned aircraft systems operators;

(C) customers or end users of data collected by unmanned aircraft systems operators;

(D) unmanned aircraft systems technology providers;

(E) commercial radio spectrum license holders;

(F) operators of commercial services in unlicensed spectrum allocations;

(G) commercial radio equipment manufacturers;

(H) appropriate standards-setting organizations; and

(I) the test ranges designated under section 332(c) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–9549 U.S.C. 40101 note).

(d) Considerations.—In making recommendations under subsection (b), the working group established under that subsection shall consider current and anticipated communications needs for unmanned aircraft systems, including the development of—

(1) sense-and-avoid and detect-and-avoid technology;

(2) payload data transmissions;

(3) communications link integration in unmanned aircraft systems;

(4) appropriate standards for communications links for various altitudes, aircraft, and operations;

(5) traditional and unmanned aircraft system air traffic management technology;

(6) command and control at high altitudes;

(7) shared spectrum access and management technologies, including dynamic spectrum-sharing schemes, contention-based protocols, and cognitive radio capabilities;

(8) internationally harmonized communications standards; and

(9) radio-frequency communications security standards.

(e) Report To Congress.—Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter through January 1, 2023, the Assistant Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on the status of the development of a Federal policy for communications among unmanned aircraft systems, including—

(1) a summary of considerations under subsection (d); and

(2) recommendations for legislative or regulatory action related to that policy that is necessary to facilitate the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.

(f) Definitions.—In this section:

(1) ASSISTANT SECRETARY.—The term “Assistant Secretary” means the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information.

(2) CHAIRMAN.—The term “Chairman” means the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

 

SEC. 7. INTERAGENCY WORKING GROUP ON ENHANCED SAFETY AND SECURITY FOR SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS.

(a) In General.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, in coordination with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall establish an interagency working group—

(1) to examine methods and structures to enhance the safety and security of expanded operations by small unmanned aircraft that involve operations beyond the visual line of sight of the operator and over people; and

(2) to clearly delineate roles and responsibilities among agencies participating in the working group in determining proper safety and security-related obligations and oversight.

(b) Membership.—The interagency working group established under subsection (a) shall, in addition to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Secretary of Homeland Security, be composed of the following:

(1) The Secretary of Defense.

(2) The Attorney General.

(3) The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(4) The heads of such other Federal agencies as the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration considers appropriate.

(c) Consultations.—The interagency working group established under subsection (a) shall regularly consult with representatives of—

(1) unmanned aircraft systems industry organizations and stakeholders; and

(2) the test ranges designated under section 332(c) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–9549 U.S.C. 40101 note).

(d) Report.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the interagency working group established under subsection (a) shall—

(1) develop conclusions and recommendations with respect to the matters specified in that subsection; and

(2) submit to Congress a report on such conclusions and recommendations.

(e) Rulemaking.—Not later than 270 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall release for public comment a notice of proposed rulemaking to modify part 107 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, to allow for operations by small unmanned aircraft, including operations over people, operations beyond the visual line of sight of the operator, operations at night, and operations of multiple unmanned aircraft systems by a single remote pilot.

 

SEC. 8. EXTENSION OF PILOT PROGRAM FOR INTEGRATION UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS INTO THE NATIONAL AIRSPACE SYSTEM.

(a) In General.—Section 332(c)(1) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–9549 U.S.C. 40101 note) is amended by striking “September 30, 2019” and inserting “September 30, 2024”.

(b) Authorization Of Appropriations.—There are authorized to be appropriated to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration $14,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2018 through 2024 to carry out the pilot program under section 332(c) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–9549 U.S.C. 40101 note), to be distributed among the test ranges designated under that section for further research and development on the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.

 

SEC. 9. EXCEPTION FOR HOBBYIST-OPERATED SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.

(a) In General.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person may operate an unmanned aircraft without specific operating authority from the Federal Aviation Administration if—

(1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with the safety guidelines of a community-based organization that have been published in a publically accessible format by the Federal Aviation Administration;

(3) the aircraft is not flown beyond visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or persons colocated with and in direct communication with the person operating the aircraft;

(4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft and does not pose undue hazard to any other aircraft, obstacle, or person;

(5)

(A) the operator

(i) obtains prior authorization from air traffic control before operating in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport; and

(ii) complies with all temporary and permanent airspace restrictions in place for the furtherance of security and law enforcement interests; or

(B) in the case of an operator conducting operations from a permanent location within such airspace or a community-based organization conducting a sanctioned event at a fixed site within such airspace, establishes a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport);

(6) the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level, except under special conditions and programs established by a community-based organization;

(7) the aircraft is registered and marked in accordance with chapter 441 of title 49, United States Code, and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a law enforcement agency upon request; and

(8) the operator has completed an online safety course administered by the Federal Aviation Administration for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems under this section, and proof of completion of the safety course is made available to the Administrator or a law enforcement agency upon request.

(b) Updates.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The Administrator, in collaboration with government and industry stakeholders, including community-based organizations, shall initiate a process to periodically update the operational parameters under subsection (a), as appropriate.

(2) CONSIDERATIONS.—In updating an operational parameter under paragraph (1), the Administrator shall consider—

(A) appropriate operational limitations to mitigate aviation safety risk and risk to the uninvolved public;

(B) operations outside the membership, guidelines, and programming of a community-based organization;

(C) physical characteristics, technical standards, and classes of aircraft operating under this section;

(D) trends in use, enforcement, or incidents involving unmanned aircraft systems;

(E) ensuring, to the greatest extent practicable, that updates to the operational parameters correspond to, and leverage, advances in technology; and

(F) equipage requirements that facilitate operations and further integrate all unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system, such as through unmanned aircraft system traffic management and remote identification and tracking.

(3) RULEMAKING.—The Administrator may prescribe regulations for hobbyist-operated small unmanned aircraft based on the process established under paragraph (1).

(c) Rules Of Construction.—Nothing in this section shall be construed—

(1) to expand the authority of the Administrator to require operators of small unmanned aircraft operating under an exemption under subsection (a) to be required to seek authorization from the Administrator before conducting an operation in the national airspace system other than as required by subsection (a); or

(2) to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue an enforcement action against persons operating small unmanned aircraft in violation of this section or any other provision of law.

(d) List Of Community-Based Organizations.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The Administrator shall maintain on a publicly available Internet website of the Federal Aviation Administration a list of community-based organizations under which small unmanned aircraft may be operated in accordance with subsection (a).

(2) INCLUSION OF ORGANIZATIONS.—The Administrator may include a community-based organization on the list required by paragraph (1) if the organization submits to the Federal Aviation Administration—

(A) a statement that the organization meets the definition of “community-based organization” under subsection (e); and

(B) the safety guidelines of the organization.

(3) REMOVAL.—The Administrator may remove a community-based organization from the list required by paragraph (1).

(4) GUIDANCE.—The Administrator shall publish guidance on the process for including community-based organizations on, and removing such organizations, from the list required by paragraph (1).

(e) Definitions.—In this section:

(1) COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATION.—The term “community-based organization” means an organization that—

(A) represents the aeromodeling and hobby and recreational unmanned aircraft community within the United States;

(B) provides its members a comprehensive set of safety guidelines that underscore safe operations of unmanned aircraft within the national airspace system and the protection and safety of the general public on the ground;

(C) develops and maintains mutually supportive programming with educational institutions, government entities, and other aviation associations; and

(D) acts as a liaison with government agencies as an advocate for its members.

(2) SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.—The term “small unmanned aircraft” means an unmanned aircraft that—

(A) is capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; and

(B) weighs less than 55 pounds, including the weight of anything attached to or carried by the aircraft, unless otherwise approved through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization.

(f) Conforming Repeal.—Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–9549 U.S.C. 40101 note) and the item relating to that section in the table of contents for that Act are repealed.

 

SEC. 10. ENSURING CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM INDUSTRY.

Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, consistent with section 4(c) of Executive Order 13771 (82 Fed. Reg. 9339; relating to reducing regulation and controlling regulatory costs), shall exempt from the definitions of “regulation” and “rule” for the purposes of that Executive order any final action taken by the Secretary of Transportation or the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration on or after January 30, 2017, primarily related to unmanned aircraft systems.

 

SEC. 11. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE REPORT ON CYBERSECURITY AND OPERATIONAL CONCERNS.

Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to Congress a report—

(1) describing developments and protections relating to cybersecurity and operational control concerns with respect to unmanned aircraft systems;

(2) making recommendations for developments and protections described in paragraph (1) that could better address such concerns; and

(3) making recommendations for clearly defining Federal jurisdiction and oversight of unmanned aircraft system security matters.


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Drone Operator Safety Act of 2017 (H.R.3644/S.1755)

Drone-Operator-Safety-Act-of-2017

Quick Summary of the Drone Operator Safety Act of 2017:

The Drone Operator Safety Act of 2017 is a proposed bill that makes it a federal misdemeanor to: (1)  fly unmanned aircraft in the runway exclusion zone of an airport (red zone in the picture to the left) without air traffic control authorization or (2) “operate an unmanned aircraft and, in so doing, knowingly or recklessly interfering with, or disrupting the operation of, an aircraft or other airborne vehicle carrying 1 or more occupants operating in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, in a manner that poses an imminent safety hazard to such occupants[.]”

This applies to all unmanned aircraft.

A federal misdemeanor can be punished up to 1 year in federal prison and/or a $100,000 fine. If the person attempts or causes serious bodily injury or death with a drone, the crime is punishable up to life in prison.

This article is part of my Drone Legislation Database.

Background of the Drone Operator Safety Act:

The Drone Operator Safety Act of 2017 was introduced on August 4, 2017 by  Congressman Langevin (HR 3644) and on August 3, 2017 by Senator Whitehouse  (SB 1755). If this act’s name sounds familiar, it is because Congressman Langevin introduced a bill with the same name in 2016 that is very similar; however, this is NOT to be confused with:

This bill is somewhat similar to the 2016 Drone Operator Safety Act. The main difference is in regards to how the exclusion zone is defined. The 2016 version applied “class B, class C, or class D airspace” while the 2017 version says “an airport” which means it can apply to ALL airports.

Summary of the Drone Operator Safety Act:

The Drone Operator Safety Act is the culmination of the overall growing sentiment in Congress that drones should not operate near airports. There is research being put into drone countermeasures, drone detection, and drone jamming but there needs to be “teeth” as to how to counter the actual flyer of the drone, not just the aircraft.

It creates this runway exclusion zone that extends 1 mile off the end of the runway. The only way you can fly in the runway exclusion zone is if you have authorization.Flying in this runway exclusion zone is a federal misdemeanor punishable up to a year in federal prison and/or a $100,000 fine; however, if the misdemeanor results in death, they could be fined $250,000. See 18 U.S.C.  § 3559 and 18 U.S.C. § 3571.

In addition to the runway exclusion zone, it creates a crime that can happen ANYWHERE. The penalty for flying “knowingly or recklessly interfering with, or disrupting the operation of, an aircraft or other airborne vehicle carrying 1 or more occupants operating in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, in a manner that poses an imminent safety hazard to such occupants.” A violation of this is punishable up to a year in federal prison and/or a $100,000 fine unless death happens which then makes the fine up to $250,000.

It also forbids attempted or caused great bodily harm or death and allows for punishment up to life in prison. This kind of makes sense. A prosecutor needs to have a wide range of punishments to work with when prosecuting. The federal crime of attempted murder with a gun is a maximum of 20 years; however, if you are trying to take out an airliner, that is like 130+ attempts of murder.

Pros:

  • It will deter people from flying drones next to airports or aircraft. This is good because I’m tired of the drone “near misses” that are reported on the news which are later used for justification for some state or local laws.
  • It will force commercial drone operators to use the FAA authorization process to obtain a FAA authorization which basically will act like the get out of jail free card.

Cons:

  • I’ve seen this before where over-zealous law enforcement will arrest a person claiming the drone was being operated in the sky near an aircraft (whatever “near” means) which in the officer’s opinion would have killed everyone if there was a collision. This is exactly what happened in the Turgeon case in North Dakota. A law enforcement officer arrested him and he was charged with 2 counts of reckless endangerment and 1 felony level reckless endangerment (because the officer thought he could have taken out the airplane flying overhead). Turgeon later was found not guilty. The Turgeon case was NOT an outlier.  Wilkins Mendoza and Remy Castro were both charged under New York’s felony careless and reckless laws, but prosecutors dropped their case. See also my article on the 23 enforcement actions the FAA did where 19 of them were prosecuted under state law also. These laws are easy to arrest under but hard to prosecute.
  • It applies to “airports” which means you can get in trouble flying in the runway exclusion zone of a middle-of-nowhere “po-dunk” class G airport that rarely sees any traffic. “Airports needs to be defined better to be narrow.
  • It is written so broadly that I can see helicopter pilots, crop dusters, etc. all getting more aggressive with drone operators. I think it would be wise to create some type of language that this interference charge cannot happen below a certain altitude (200 or 400ft AGL) or within a certain distance of a structure. Hobbyists do not have any altitude restrictions like the 107 operators do (400ft AGL).This way loitering airplanes and helicopters cannot be used to suppress drones being used underneath them. Think about it, if you want to hide something, you just fly manned aircraft up in the sky and arrest whoever flys their drone. Any journalists see a problem here?
  • I don’t believe all the airport phone lines are recorded (that is what a FAA FOIA processor told me) so there are potential situations where hobbyists could get permission but have no proof of authorization to fly in the exclusion zone.
  • There are no air traffic control towers for many of the airports out there so this creates a problem. Furthermore, the FAA is not giving out authorizations under Part 107 to class G airports.

Questions Raised/Suggestions:

  • Except for the exclusion zone, create a 0- 200ft AGL “safe zone” where drone operators cannot be prosecuted. This can be used to prevent people from using this law to suppress drone journalism.
  • What type of “airports” are covered? There are thousands of airports all over the U.S. but a large chunk of them are private or quiet small class G airports. Only so many airports really matter. The FAA got away from trying to deal with “airports” and instead worded Part 107 to require authorization to operate in class B, C, D, or E at the surface airspace. I think this act should go back to the class, B, C, or D distinction.
  • Another reason to go back to B, C, or D classification is you can’t get authorization from the FAA to operate near class G airports. Class G and class E at the surface airports 99% of the time don’t have air traffic control towers to get authorizations from. Moreover, a lot of the class G and class E at the surface airports don’t receive much traffic.
  • The text says, “received prior authorization for the operation from the air traffic control tower at the airport” but how does this work with FAA’s new LAANC system?
  • Make it a crime to knowingly create false drone sightings or over-exaggerate the closeness of the drone.
  • Maybe the FAA should create a tip line where informants get paid if there is a prosecution.

 

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Drone Operator Safety Act of 2017’’.

 

SECTION. 2. UNSAFE OPERATION OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.

(a) IN GENERAL.—Chapter 2 of title 18, United States Code, is amended—

(1) in section 31—

(A) in subsection (a)—

(i) by redesignating paragraph (10) as paragraph (11); and

(ii) by inserting after paragraph (9) the following:

‘‘(10) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.—The term ‘unmanned aircraft’ has the meaning given that term in section 331 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–95; 49 U.S.C. 40101 note).’’; and

(B) in subsection (b), by inserting ‘‘ ‘airport’,’’ before ‘‘ ‘appliance’,’’; and

(2) by inserting after section 39A the following:

‘‘§ 39B. Unsafe operation of unmanned aircraft

‘‘(a) OFFENSE.—It shall be unlawful to operate an unmanned aircraft and, in so doing, knowingly or recklessly interfering with, or disrupting the operation of, an aircraft or other airborne vehicle carrying 1 or more occupants operating in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, in a manner that poses an imminent safety hazard to such occupants.

‘‘(b) PENALTY.—

‘(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), a person who violates subsection (a) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both.

‘‘(2) SERIOUS BODILY INJURY OR DEATH.—Any person who attempts to cause, or knowingly or recklessly causes, serious bodily injury or death while violating subsection (a) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both.

‘‘(c) OPERATION OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO AIRPORTS.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—The operation of an unmanned aircraft, including an operation covered by section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–95; 49 U.S.C. 40101 note), within a runway exclusion zone shall be considered a violation of subsection (a) unless—

 ‘‘(A) the operation of the unmanned aircraft received prior authorization for the operation from the air traffic control tower at the airport; or

‘‘(B) the operation is the result of a circumstance, such as a malfunction, that could not have been reasonably foreseen or prevented by the operator.

‘‘(2) RUNWAY EXCLUSION ZONE DEFINED.—In this subsection, the term ‘runway exclusion zone’  means a rectangular area—

‘‘(A) centered on the centerline of a runway of an airport; and

‘‘(B) the length of which extends parallel to the runway’s centerline to points that are 1 statute mile from each end of the runway and the width of which is 1⁄2 statute mile.’’.

(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.—The table of sections for chapter 2 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 39A the following:

‘‘39B. Unsafe operation of unmanned aircraft.’’


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Drone Legislation Directory (Updated to 2017)

drone-legislation-capitol-buildingI’m going to break the Drone Legislation Directory up into two sections: passed drone legislation and proposed drone legislation.

I’m using the term very loosely to apply to laws that affect hobby/civilian drones in some way. For example, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 is primarily military focused but made it legal for the Secretary of Defense to shoot down civilian drones over certain locations.

This page applies ONLY to federal drone legislation, not state. Interested in passed state drone laws? I have a whole page on drone laws (state and international).

I’m presently working on this article so there are gaps and missing proposed acts. I should have them all up sometime soon.

Passed Drone Legislation

Proposed Drone Legislation

Most of these bills were proposed but died very shortly after being introduced.

2017

  1. 21st Century AIRR Act (H.R.2997) from Rep. Shuster.
  2. Drone Operator Safety Act of 2017 (H.R.3644/S.1755) Senator Whitehouse & Representative Langevin
  3. Safe DRONE Act of 2017 (S1410) from Senator Mark Warner.
  4. FLIGHT R&D Act (H.R.3198 ) from Rep. Knight
  5. Aeronautics Innovation Act (H.R.3033) from Rep. Knight.
  6. Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017 (S.1405 ) from Sen. Thune.
  7. Drone Innovation Act of 2017 (HR 2930) from Rep. Lewis
  8. Drone Federalism Act of 2017 (S1272) Sen. Feinstein.
  9. Military Asset Protection Act (H.R.1968) from Rep. Dunn
  10. Wildfire Airspace Protection Act of 2017 (H.R.1138) from Rep. Cook.
  11. Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2017 (H.R.1526 ) Rep. Welch and (S631) from Sen. Markey.
  12. No Armed Drones Act of 2017 (HR 129) from Rep. Burgess
  13. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R.2810) from Rep. Thornberry.

2016

 

2015


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

How the 21st Century AIRR Act Affects Drones

21st-Century-AIRR-Act-Affects-Drones

The scope of this is ONLY for unmanned aircraft since that is what my business is about. :)

The title of the bill is “21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act’’ and has multiple provisions for unmanned aircraft.

I’ll outline below the major provisions for each of the areas. I’ll continue to update this as I read through the documents.

 

This article is part of my Drone Legislation Database.

GENERAL

  • Calls for the creation of a non-profit corporation called American Air Navigation Services Corporation.
  • “The Secretary shall transfer operational control over air traffic services within United States airspace and international airspace delegated to the United States to the Corporation on the date of transfer in a systematic and orderly manner that ensures continuity of safe air traffic services.”
  • Individuals who use air traffic services are assessed a fee.
  • AIR TRAFFIC SERVICES.— “The term ‘air traffic services’ means services (A) used for the monitoring, directing, control, and guidance of aircraft or flows of aircraft and for the safe conduct of flight, including communications, navigation, and surveillance services and provision of aeronautical information; and  (B) provided directly, or contracted for,  by the FAA before the date of transfer.”
  • ‘‘(12) UTM.—The term ‘UTM’ means an unmanned aircraft traffic management system or service.”
  • “(b) PREEMPTION.—A State, political subdivision of a State, or political authority of at least 2 States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to air traffic services.”
  • This act cleans up Sections 331-336 from the FMRA of 2012. It also puts it in the United States Code in Title 49, Chapter 455.

ADVISORY BOARD

  • The advisory board advising the non-profit corporation shall have on it unmanned aircraft operators and unmanned aircraft manufacturers.

Questions:

  • Does this also include community based organizations like the Academy of Model Aeronautics?

 

UTM

  • “[T]he Federal Aviation Administration shall initiate a rulemaking to establish procedures for issuing air navigation facility certificates pursuant to section 44702 to operators” of UTM for unmanned aircraft operations.
  • While the regulations are getting created, the FAA shall determine shall determine, at a minimum, which types of UTM and low-altitude CNS, if any, as a result of their operational capabilities, reliability, intended use, and areas of operation, and the characteristics of the aircraft involved, do not create a hazard to users of the national airspace system or the public.”
  • The DOT shall “provide expedited procedures for reviewing and approving UTM or low-altitude CNS operated to monitor or control
    aircraft operated primarily or exclusively in airspace above—(1) croplands; (2) areas other than congested areas; and (3) other areas in which the operation of unmanned aircraft poses very low risk.

 

OPERATION OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT

  • Provides for a risk-based permitting process. One interesting thing is when the FAA is evaluating the operations, it SHALL look at 8 elements, 1 of which says, “Any history of civil penalties or certificate actions by the Administrator against the applicant seeking the permit.”
  • The permit lasts for 5 years.
  • This permit is completely separate from Part 107.
  • Tells the FAA to shall establish a “procedure for granting an exemption and issuing a certificate of waiver or authorization for the operation of a small unmanned aircraft system[.]”  Where has the writer of this bill been the last couple of years? It then goes on to list an exemption like and reference “Exemption No. 11687, issued on May 26, 2015, Regulatory Docket Number FAA–2015-0117, or in a subsequent exemption[.]”  This exemption was of the 2nd generation of exemptions (remember “closed set” filming) and it doesn’t make sense why they cited this one and not a post march 15, 2016 exemption which was better. But it does say “or in a subsequent exemption” so it ultimately doesn’t matter but I found that interesting

MODEL AIRCRAFT

  • Upholds the protections of Section 336 regarding model aircraft flyers but DOES allow the FAA to create a registration system for model aircraft.
  • The Section 336 provisions, which used to be 5 elements, now includes the requirement that the drone cannot fly over a fixed site facility that “operates amusement rides available for use by the general public or the property extending 500 lateral feet beyond the perimeter of such facility unless the operation is authorized by the owner of the amusement facility[.]”
  • Commercial education of unmanned aircraft falls into the protections for model aircraft.
  • The new language defines what a community based organization is 501(c)(3), is exempt from tax under 501(a), “mission of which is demonstrably thefurtherance of model aviation[,]” provides programming and support local charter organizations, affiliates, or clubs, etc….
  • Tells the FAA to create within 180 days of passage a process for recognizing a community based organization.

 

PACKAGE DELIVERY

  • Creates a small UAS air carrier certificate for property transport.

 

COMPTROLLER GENERAL STUDY

• “the Comptroller General of the United States shall initiate a study on appropriate fee mechanisms to recover the costs of— (1) the regulation and safety oversight of unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems; and (2) the provision of air navigation services to unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems.”

 

PUBLIC AIRCRAFT

  • Allows Indian tribes to obtain public aircraft status using unmanned aircraft. What about manned aircraft?

HUH?

  • ‘‘(g) EFFECTIVE PERIODS.—An exemption or certificate of waiver or authorization issued under this section, or an amendment of such exemption or certificate, shall cease to be valid on the effective date of a final rule on small unmanned aircraft systems issued under section 45502(b)(1).”  I have no clue what in the world this mean since Section 45502 is really the “updated” version of Section 332 of the FMRA of 2012 and was finally fulfilled by the FAA in the creation of Part 107 in August 29th, 2016.
  • In Section 434, it says, ” It is the sense of Congress that …..the unauthorized operation of unmanned aircraft near airports presents a serious hazard to aviation safety; ……91.126 through 91.131 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, prohibit unauthorized operation of an aircraft in controlled airspace near an airport ……Federal aviation regulations, including section 91.13 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, prohibit the operation of an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”   Why are they citing Part 91 when unmanned aircraft operate under Part 107? Yes, I know Section 333 exemption operations are under Part 91 but this is like some weird hold over from the pre-107 days.

Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Drone Innovation Act of 2017 (HR 2930)

Brief Summary:

The Drone Innovation Act of 2017 was introduced by Representative Jason Lewis on June 16, 2017. It was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. This bill is similar to Senator Feinstein’s Drone Federalism Act recently introduced in that it seeks to clarify this murky area of how states and local governments can regulate unmanned aircraft.  I don’t know how far this bill will go because it has provisions that many will love and other provisions they will hate.

This article is part of my Drone Legislation Database.

My Thoughts:

The FAA has created a drone advisory committee to study out this very issue and present consensus recommendations. I think the wisest thing to do would be to wait until those consensus recommendations are completed. When it comes to chopping up the airspace, I think we should take the advice of my grandfather when he taught me about woodworking: “measure twice, cut once.”

Notable Points of the Drone Innovation Act:

  • “[T]he Secretary of Transportation shall, after consultation with State, local, and Tribal Officials, and other appropriate stakeholders, publish a civil unmanned aircraft local operation policy framework[.]”
  • The policy framework required shall “provide guidelines to aid States, local and Tribal governments and, to the degree possible, standardizing reasonable time, manner, and place limitations and other restrictions on operations of civil and small unmanned aircraft that are local in nature[.]”
  • “In crafting the policy framework and in prescribing any future regulations or standards related to civil unmanned aircraft systems, the Secretary of Transportation shall define the scope of the preemptive effect of any civil unmanned aircraft regulations or standards pursuant to section 40103 or 41713 of title 49, United States Code.”
  • “In formulating and implementing the policy framework required pursuant to subsection (a) and any future regulations, policies or standards related to civil unmanned aircraft systems, the Secretary shall abide by and be guided by the following fundamental principles” list in 11 section. (I think this sort of acts like an Executive Order 12,866 for drone regulations).
  • The Secretary of the DOT shall enter into a pilot program with 20-30 State, local, or Tribal governments to provide technical assistance to such governments in regulating the operation of small and civil unmanned aircraft systems.
  • “In prescribing regulations or standards related to civil or small unmanned aircraft systems, the Secretary shall not authorize the operation of small or civil unmanned aircraft in airspace local in nature above property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy without permission of the property owner.”
  • “[N]o cause of action, claim or remedy may be made solely because of the transit of an unmanned aircraft through airspace local in nature over private property in the absence of proof that such transit substantially interfered with the owner or lessee’s use or enjoyment of the property or repeatedly transited the airspace local in nature above the owner’s property.”
  • “[T]he Secretary shall not issue any rule or regulation that impedes or operates contrary to the authority of the State, local, or Tribal government to define private property rights as it applies to unmanned aircraft in the airspace above the property that is” 200ft above ground level and below and within the lateral boundaries of a State, local or Tribal government’s jurisdiction.
  • “A State or local government may not unreasonably or substantially impede the ability of a civil unmanned aircraft, from reaching the navigable airspace.” Examples include: outright bans, excessively large prohibitions, a combination of restrictions that have the practical effect of unreasonably impeding.
  • “Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent an operator or pilot from operating a small or civil unmanned aircraft over their own property, right of way, easement, lands, or waters.”

Who Supports the Drone Innovation Act:

  • Representative Jason Lewis (MN-02) (He introduced it).
  • Representatives Brownley (D-CA-26)
  • Representative Rokita (R-IN-04)
  • Representative Garamendi (D-CA-03)

Those Who Objected to the Drone Federalism Act:

The Drone Federalism Act is similar to this act in that it attempts to answer the question of how can states and local governments regulate unmanned aircraft. 13 organizations sent a letter to lawmarkers speaking out against the Drone Federalism Act and said “lawmakers should wait until efforts such as the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) have created consensus recommendations – with input from stakeholders – before considering changes to longstanding federal governance of the NAS. Legislating changes before consensus is reached may have dramatic unintended consequences that could stifle innovation, restrict economic growth and interstate commerce, and potentially compromise safety.” I think these organizations will react to this bill in a very similar way. These organizations include:

  • Brian Wynne, President and CEO of Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
  • Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of Consumer Technology Association
  • Mark R. Baker, President and CEO of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
  • Rich Hanson, President of Academy of Model Aeronautics
  • Robin Rorick, Group Director, of American Petroleum Institute
  • Melissa Lyttle, President of National Press Photographers Association
  • Matthew S. Zuccaro, President and CEO of Helicopter Association International
  • Edward M. Bolen, President and CEO of National Business Aviation Association
  • Jim Goldwater, Director of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs of National Association of Tower Erectors
  • Lisa Ellman & Gretchen West, Co-Executive Directors of Commercial Drone Alliance
  • Kara Calvert, Executive Director of Drone Manufacturers Alliance
  • Peter F. Dumont, President and CEO of Air Traffic Controller Association
  • Michael Drobac, Executive Director of Small UAV Coalition
  • Trish Gilbert, Executive Vice-President of National Air Traffic Controllers Association

Pros:

  • It does say a state or local government may not unreasonably or substantially impede the ability of a civil unmanned aircraft, from reaching the navigable airspace which is great. This section could be made much better by actually including some language saying that if the drone flyer is successful in winning a lawsuit against the state or local government that their attorney fees would be awarded.
  • The state, local, and tribal governments will create laws to crack down on the unsafe drone flyers. I don’t know many will go all the way so as to say operating contrary to Part 107 is unsafe for the public.
  • It does not have the language that Senator Feinstein had regarding restrictions that could go laterally 200ft.
  • The FAA could be broad in preempting things and divest the states, local, and tribal governments from regulating in many areas. The FAA loves to do regulatory land grabs. Just see the Taylor v. FAA case.

Cons:

  • Section 3(d) is going to slow down the rulemaking process even further for future drone regulations to figure out this new problem. The FAA is choked bad enough with Section 336, President Trump’s Executive Order (2 for 1 deal), and their limited human resources to get out the over people, night, and extended line of sight operation regulations out. They won’t want a repeat of the Taylor case by doing things sloppy.
  • “Secretary shall not authorize the operation of small or civil unmanned aircraft in airspace local in nature above property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy without permission of the property owner.” This 200ft “floor” will push drone aircraft further up into the national airspace which will be a problem when operating in urban environments with large amounts of aircraft in the area. Part 107 requires airspace authorizations to fly in controlled airspace, there is a lot near major cities, and the operating altitude gets lower the closer you get to the airport. This means the operational envelope for drone operations in urban environments for drone delivery (like Amazon drone delivery) will be much smaller if they have to be above 200ft while staying low enough to not interfere with manned aircraft. See my article on Amazon Drone Delivery and the legal issues they face.
  • This has the net effect of pushing more operations above 200ft. Helicopter pilots, do you like that?

Questions Left Unanswered:

  • “[T]he Secretary of Transportation shall, after consultation with State, local, and Tribal Officials, and other appropriate stakeholders, publish a civil unmanned aircraft local operation policy framework in the Federal Register.” How in the world is going to happen in 6 months??!?!?!

 

Section 1. SHORT TITLE

This Act may be cited as the “Drone Innovation Act of 2017”.

Section 2. DEFINITIONS

In this Act the following definitions apply:

(1) CIVIL AIRCRAFT. – The term “civil aircraft” with respect to an unmanned aircraft system, means that the unmanned aircraft is not a public aircraft as defined in a section of 40102 of title 49, United States Code.
(2) LOCAL GOVERNMENT. – The term “local government” means a unit of government that is a subdivision of a State, such as a city, county, or parish.
(3) LOCAL OPERATION. – The terms “local operation” and “local in nature” refer to flights or portions of civil unmanned aircraft that occur in airspace –

(A) Up to 200ft above ground level; and
(B) The lateral boundaries of a State, local or Tribal government’s jurisdiction

(4) SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT. – The term “small unmanned aircraft” has the same meaning as such term is defined in section 331(5) of the FAA Reform and Modernization Act of 2012.
(5) STATE. – The term “State” means each of the several States, the District of Columbia, and the territories and possession of the United States.
(6) TRIBAL GOVERNMENT. – The term Tribal Government” means the governing body of an Indian Tribe (as defined in section 4 the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 5304)).

Section 3. CIVIL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT POLICY FRAMEWORK

(a) IN GENERAL – Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall, after consultation with State, local, and Tribal Officials, and other appropriate stakeholders, publish a civil unmanned aircraft local operation policy framework in the Federal Register.
(b) CONTENTS. – The policy framework required pursuant to subsection (a) shall –

(1) provide guidelines to aid States, local and Tribal governments in harmonizing and, to the degree possible, standardizing reasonable time, manner, and place limitations and other restrictions on operations of civil and small unmanned aircraft that are local in nature;
(2) take into account the economic and non-economic benefits, such as civic or educational uses, of small or civil unmanned aircraft operations;
(3) provide guidelines to aid States, local, and Tribal governments in creating an environment that is hospitable to innovation and fosters the rapid integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system; and
(4) aid States, local, and Tribal governments in adopting technologies, such as unmanned traffic management systems, that will enable notification to operators regarding reasonable time, manner, and place limitations on operations of civil and small unmanned aircraft that are local in nature.

(c) ANALYSIS – In crafting the policy framework and in prescribing any future regulations or standards related to civil unmanned aircraft systems, the Secretary of Transportation shall define the scope of the preemptive effect of any civil unmanned aircraft regulations or standards pursuant to section 40103 or 41713 of title 49, United States Code. Such regulations or standards shall be limited to the extent necessary to ensure the safety and efficiency of the national airspace system for interstate commerce, and shall preserve the legitimate interests of State, local, and Tribal governments, including-

(1) protecting public safety;
(2) protecting personal privacy;
(3) protecting property rights;
(4) managing land use; and
(5) restricting nuisances and noise pollution.

(d) LIMITATIONS. – In formulating and implementing the policy framework required pursuant to subsection (a) and any future regulations, policies or standards related to civil unmanned aircraft systems, the Secretary shall abide by and be guided by the following fundamental principles:

(1) Any limitation on small or civil unmanned aircraft should be consistent with maintaining the safe use of the navigable airspace and the legitimate interests of State, local, and Tribal governments.
(2) Innovation and competition are best served by a diverse and competitive small and civil unmanned aircraft systems industry.
(3) Any limitation on small or civil unmanned aircraft should not create an unreasonable burden on interstate or foreign commerce.
(4) The operation of small and civil unmanned aircraft systems that are local in nature have more in common with terrestrial transportation than traditional aviation.
(5) As it relates to the time, manner, and place of unmanned aircraft local operations, and the need to foster innovation, States, local, and Tribal governments uniquely possess the constitutional authority, the resources, and the competence to discern the sentiments of the people and to govern accordingly.
(6) Relying upon technology solutions, such as unmanned traffic management, provided by private industry, will effectively solve policy challenges.
(7) State, local and Tribal officials are best positioned to make judgements and issue dynamic limitations around events, including, fires, accidents and other first responder activity, public gatherings, community events, pedestrian thoroughfares, recreational activities, cultural activities, heritage sites, schools, parks and other inherently local events and locations, which may justify limiting unmanned aircraft activity that is local in nature while balancing the activities or events against the need for innovation.
(8) The economic and non-economic benefits, of small and civil unmanned aircraft operations may be best achieved by empowering the State, local, and Tribal governments to create a hospitable environment to welcome innovation.
(9) Innovation and competition in the unmanned aircraft industry are best served by enabling State, local, and Tribal governments to experiment with a variety of approaches to policies related to unmanned aircraft.
(10) The Department of Transportation shall, when making policy related to small or civil unmanned aircraft systems, recognize that problems that are merely common to the State, local, and Tribal governments will not justify Federal action because individual State, local and Tribal governments, acting individually or together, can effectively deal with such problems and may find and implement more innovation friendly policies than Federal agencies.
(11) The Department shall, when making policy related to small or civil unmanned aircraft systems, provide timely information and assistance to State, local, and Tribal governments that will ensure collaboration.

Section 4. PILOT PROGRAM ON FEDERAL PARTNERSHIPS

(a) IN GENERAL – Not later than 9 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall enter into agreements with not less than 20 and not more than 30 State, local, or Tribal governments to establish pilot programs under which the Secretary shall provide technical assistance to such governments in regulating the operation of small and civil unmanned aircraft systems, including through the use of the latest available technologies for unmanned traffic management, notice, authorization, and situational awareness with respect to reasonable time, manner, and place limitations and restrictions pursuant to section 3.

(b) SELECTION – In selecting among State, local and Tribal governments for purposes of establishing pilot programs under subsection (a), the Secretary shall seek to enter into agreements with –

(1) Governments that vary their size and intended approach to regulation of small and civil unmanned aircraft systems;
(2) Governments that demonstrate a willingness to partner with technology providers and small and civil unmanned aircraft operators; and
(3) At least 2 of each of the following: State governments, county governments, city governments, and Tribal Governments.

(c) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS TRAFFIC MANAMAGEMENT SYSTEM. – The Secretary shall coordinate with the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to ensure that participants in pilot programs established under subsection (a) are consulted in the development of the unmanned aircraft systems traffic management system under Section 2208 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-190, 49 U.S.C. 40101 note) and the pilot program under section (b) of such section.

(d) REPORT REQUIRED. – Not later than 18 months after establishment of the pilot programs required by subsection (a), the Secretary shall coordinate with pilot program participants to submit to Congress, and make available to the public, a report identifying best practices for State, local, and Tribal governments to regulate the operation of small and civil unmanned aircraft systems and to collaborate with the Federal Aviation Administration with respect to the regulation of such systems.

Section 5. PRESERVATION

(a) RIGHTS TO PRIVACY. – In prescribing regulations or standards related to civil or small unmanned aircraft systems, the Secretary shall not authorize the operation of small or civil unmanned aircraft in airspace local in nature above property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy without permission of the property owner.
(b) CAUSES OF ACTION, CLAIMS, AND REMEDIES –

(1) IN GENERAL. – Nothing in this section shall be construed to preempt, displace, or supplant any Federal, State, or Tribal common law rights or any Federal, State, or Tribal statute or common law right creating a remedy for civil relief, including those for civil damages, or a penalty for a criminal law.
(2) CAUSE OF ACTIONS UPHELD. – Nothing in this section shall preempt or preclude any cause of action for personal injury, wrongful death, property damage, inverse condemnation, trespass, nuisance or other injury based on negligence, strict liability, products liability, failure to warn, or any other legal theory of liability under any maritime law, or any Federal, State, or Tribal common law or statutory theory, except that no cause of action, claim or remedy may be made solely because of the transit of an unmanned aircraft through airspace local in nature over private property in the absence of proof that such transit substantially interfered with the owner or lessee’s use or enjoyment of the property or repeatedly transited the airspace local in nature above the owner’s property.

(c) PRIVATE AIRSPACE. – Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary shall not issue any rule or regulation that impedes or operates contrary to the authority of the State, local, or Tribal government to define private property rights as it applies to unmanned aircraft in the airspace above the property that is local in nature.
(d) RIGHTS TO OPERATE. – A State or local government may not unreasonably or substantially impede the ability of a civil unmanned aircraft, from reaching the navigable airspace. Unreasonable or substantial impeding of a civil unmanned aircraft reaching the navigable airspace includes —-

(1) Outright bans on overflights of the entirety of the lateral boundaries of a State or local government’s jurisdiction;
(2) Excessively large prohibitions on overflights of areas of local significance such that access to airspace is so impeded as to make a flight within the lateral boundaries of a State or local government’s jurisdiction nearly impossible; and
(3) A combination of restrictions intended to unreasonably impede or having the practical effect of unreasonably impeding the ability of a civil unmanned aircraft from reaching the navigable airspace.

(e) RIGHT OF WAY. – Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent an operator or pilot from operating a small or civil unmanned aircraft over their own property, right of way, easement, lands, or waters.

SECTION 6 STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.

(a) JUDICIAL REVIEW. – An action taken by the Secretary of Transportation under any of sections 3-5 is subject to judicial review as provided under section 46110 of title 49, United States Code.
(b) CIVIL AND CRIMINAL JURISDICTION. – Nothing in this Act (including the amendments made by this Act) may be construed to diminish or expand the civil or criminal jurisdiction of –

(1) Any Tribal Government relative to any State or local government; or
(2) Any State or local government relative to any Tribal Government.

(c) LIMITATION. – Nothing in this Act (including the amendments made by this Act) may be construed to –

(1) Affect manned aircraft operations or the authority of the Federal Aviation Authority (in this section referred to as “FAA”) with respect to manned aviation;
(2) Affect the right of the FAA to take emergency action, including the right to issue temporary flight restrictions;
(3) Affect the right of the FAA to pursue enforcement action against unsafe aircraft operators; and
(4) Affect the right of first responders to access airspace in the event of an emergency.


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Drone Federalism Act of 2017 (Senate Bill 1272)

 

Quick Summary of Important Facts of the Drone Federalism Act of 2017:

This article is part of my Drone Legislation Database.

On May 25, Senator Feinstein introduced into the U.S. Senate the bill below. It is labeled Senate Bill 1272. It has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Track the current progress of the bill by clicking here.

The bill modifies Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to require those model aircraft to have the permission of the land owner if they are within 200ft above ground level or 200ft above the structure, whichever is higher.

Any future rulemakings the FAA will do (like over people, night, or extended line of sight of operations) will have to define the preemptive effect of these laws. Additionally,  the FAA “shall ensure that the authority of a State, local, or tribal government to issue reasonable restrictions on the time, manner, and place of operation of a civil unmanned aircraft system that is operated below 200 feet above ground level or within 200 feet of a structure is not preempted.”

The FAA will enter into agreements with no more than 10 State, local, or tribal governments to provide technical assistance to these participants regarding regulating drones and these participants in the pilot program are going to be consulted with by NASA.

This bill does NOT affect preemption for manned aircraft.

 

Problems with the Drone Federalism Act of 2017:

 

Who Supports It:

If you are interested in voicing your opinion to your elected official, you can find their contact information here.

 

Actual Text of the Drone Federalism Act with My Emphasis in Bold

 

SECTION 1.  SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Drone Federalism Act of 2017’’.

 

SEC. 2. PRESERVATION OF STATE, LOCAL, AND TRIBAL AUTHORITIES WITH RESPECT TO UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS.

(a) SCOPE OF PREEMPTION FOR CIVIL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT REGULATIONS.—In prescribing regulations or standards related to civil unmanned aircraft systems, the Administrator shall—

(1) define the scope of the preemptive effect of such regulations or standards pursuant to section 40103 or 41713 of title 49, United States Code, which shall be limited to the extent necessary to ensure the safety and efficiency of the national airspace system for interstate commerce; and

(2) preserve, to the greatest extent practicable, legitimate interests of State, local, and tribal governments, including—

(A) protecting public safety;

(B) protecting personal privacy;

(C) protecting property rights;

(D) managing land use; and

(E) restricting nuisances and noise pollution.

(b) RESERVED POWERS.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—In prescribing regulations or standards related to civil unmanned aircraft systems, the Administrator shall ensure that the authority of a State, local, or tribal government to issue reasonable restrictions on the time, manner, and place of operation of a civil unmanned aircraft system that is operated below 200 feet above ground level or within 200 feet of a structure is not preempted.

(2) REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS.—For purposes of paragraph (1), reasonable restrictions on the time, manner, and place of operation of a civil unmanned aircraft system include the following:

(A) Limitations on speed.

(B) Prohibitions or limitations on operations in the vicinity of schools, parks, roadways, bridges, or other public or private property.

(C) Restrictions on operations at certain times of the day or week or on specific occasions such as during parades or sporting events.

(D) Prohibitions on operations while the operator is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

(E) Prohibitions on careless or reckless operations.

(F) Other prohibitions that protect public safety, personal privacy, or property rights, or that manage land use or restrict noise pollution.

 

SEC. 3. PRESERVATION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS.

(a) AFFIRMATION OF APPLICABILITY OF CONSTITUTIONAL TAKINGS CLAUSE TO FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION  REGULATIONS.—In prescribing regulations or standards related to civil unmanned aircraft systems, the Administrator shall not authorize the operation of a civil unmanned aircraft in the immediate reaches of the airspace above property without permission of the property owner.

(b) AFFIRMATION OF APPLICABILITY OF CONSTITUTIONAL TAKINGS CLAUSE ABSENT FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS.—Section 336(a) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–95; 49 U.S.C. 40101 note) is amended—

(1) in paragraph (4), by striking ‘‘; and’’ and inserting a semicolon;

(2) in paragraph (5), by striking the period at the end and inserting ‘‘; and’’; and

(3) by adding at the end the following: ‘‘(6) when flown in the immediate reaches of the airspace above property (as defined in section 3(c) of the Drone Federalism Act of 2017), the operator has the permission of the property owner.’’. (c) DEFINITION.—In this section, the term ‘‘immediate reaches of the airspace above property’’, with respect to the operation of a civil unmanned aircraft system, includes—

(1) any area within 200 feet above the ground level of the property;

(2) any area within 200 feet above any structure on the property; and

(3) any area where operation of the aircraft system could interfere with the enjoyment or use of the property.

SEC. 4. PILOT PROGRAM ON FEDERAL PARTNERSHIPS.

(a) IN GENERAL.—Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall enter into agreements with not more than 10 State, local, or tribal governments to establish pilot programs under which—

(1) the Administrator shall provide technical assistance to such governments in regulating the operation of civil unmanned aircraft systems, including through the use of the latest available technologies; and

(2) the Administrator and such governments shall coordinate efforts with respect to the enforcement of regulations relating to the operation of civil unmanned aircraft systems.

(b) SELECTION.—In selecting among State, local, and tribal governments for purposes of establishing pilot programs under subsection (a), the Administrator shall seek to enter into agreements with—

(1) governments that vary in their size and intended approach to regulation of civil unmanned aircraft systems; and

(2) not less than one State government, not less than one county government, not less than one city government, and not less than one tribal government.

(c) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.—The Administrator shall coordinate with Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to ensure that participants in pilot programs established under subsection (a) are consulted in the development of the unmanned aircraft systems traffic management system under subsection (a) section 2208 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (Public Law 114–190; 49 U.S.C. 40101 note) and the pilot program under subsection (b) of that section.

(d) REPORT REQUIRED.—Not later than 2 years after establishing the pilot programs required by subsection (a), the Administrator shall submit to Congress, and make available to the public, a report identifying best practices for State, local, and tribal governments to regulate the operation of civil unmanned aircraft systems and to collaborate with the Federal Aviation Administration with respect to the regulation of such systems.

 

SEC. 5. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

Nothing in this Act shall be construed—

(1) to diminish or expand the preemptive effect of the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration with respect to manned aviation; or

(2) to affect the civil or criminal jurisdiction of—

(A) any Indian tribe relative to any State or local government; or

(B) any State or local government relative to any Indian tribe.

 

SEC. 6. DEFINITIONS.

In this Act:

(1) ADMINISTRATOR.—The term ‘‘Administrator’’ means the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

(2) CIVIL.—The term ‘‘civil’’, with respect to an unmanned aircraft system, means that the unmanned aircraft is not a public aircraft (as defined in section 40102 of title 49, United States Code).

(3) INDIAN TRIBE.—The term ‘‘Indian tribe’’ has the meaning given that term in section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 5304).

(4) LOCAL GOVERNMENT.—The term ‘‘local’’, with respect to a government, means the government of a subdivision of a State.

(5) STATE.—The term ‘‘State’’ means each of the several States, the District of Columbia, and the territories and possessions of the United States.

(6) TRIBAL GOVERNMENT.—The term ‘‘tribal’’, with respect to a government, means the governing body of an Indian tribe.

(7) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT; UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM.—The terms ‘‘unmanned aircraft’’ and ‘‘unmanned aircraft system’’ have the meanings given those terms in section 331 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112–95; 49 U.S.C. 40101 note).