FAA and Drone Regulation: Should the FAA Have Exclusive Control?

The FAA is working hard to integrate drones into the airspace and ensure the safety of both manned and unmanned aircraft.  But how much control should the FAA have, and would a “patchwork” approach actually hold some advantages for the drone industry?  In this challenge to the prevailing view, attorney Jonathan Hayden, Esq. writes that exclusive FAA control over drone regulations may not be best for business.

The following is a guest post by Jonathan Hayden, Esq., attorney at Boston-based Riemer and Braunstein, LLP.  DRONELIFE neither accepts nor makes payment for guest posts.

Why the Drone Community Should Not Embrace Exclusive FAA Control of Drone Regulations

When discussing drone regulations there are two common assumptions within the drone community: first, the FAA, and only the FAA, has sole regulatory authority over all drone flights in the United States; and second, the FAA’s exclusive authority is good for the drone community.  While the extent of the FAA’s regulatory authority is regularly discussed within the drone and legal communities, the question of whether the FAA having exclusive authority for drones is a positive thing for the drone community receives scant attention, as many within the drone community assume sole FAA authority is preferable to the localized rules that would result from landowners having the right to exclude drones from the airspace immediately above their land and state governments establishing the bulk of the country’s drone regulations.  However, it is a serious miscalculation for the drone community to advocate for the FAA to have such extensive, far-reaching authority, and if the FAA ever had such authority, many within the drone community would likely rue the day they advocated for it.

For example, imagine a scenario twenty years from now: the FAA has unchallenged regulatory authority over drone flights nationwide and neither landowners nor state and local governments have any authority.  Over the past twenty years, major drone companies and industry lobbying associations have provided significant information and advice to the FAA about drone technology to assist in the development of numerous drone regulations.  The FAA professional staff working on drone issues is mostly comprised of experts that previously worked for major drone manufacturers and drone service providers.  This results in the FAA regulating drones with a focus on the needs and interests of larger companies and industries within the drone community, a dynamic that is not odd or even controversial, as many government

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