On Thursday, February 4, United States Senator Mike Lee (R–Utah) reintroduced the previously-defeated Drone Federalism Bill. First proposed in 2017 by Lee, Senator Diane Feinstein (D–CA), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Senator Tom Cotton (R–AR), it would give states, counties, cities and local tribe governments the right to control, and possibly tax, airspace at the first 200 feet above ground level.
The bill would also require drone operators to ‘secure permission from the owner before flying a drone within 200 feet above a private[ly] held property.’ 2017 wasn’t the only year such restrictions were suggested by members of the Senate. In 2019, the Drone Integration and Zoning Act was introduced and subsequently dismissed.
The Drone Service Providers Alliance (DSPA) blew the whistle on Lee’s latest attempt to pass this amendment. The proposal doesn’t only create problems for remote pilots. It also has the potential to kneecap a portion of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) jurisdiction, as they’re currently responsible for regulating airspace for all aircraft in the United States.
‘Even with Senator Lee removing the 200’ language in the final version of the amendment, he is still trying to insert language into a budget bill that will attempt to diffuse the FAA’s sole authority over control of the NAS [National Airspace]. This must not happen,’ Vic Moss, DSPA’s COO/Vice President, tells DPReview.
AirMap, who has supported the Drone Federalism Bill from the very beginning, recently expressed support for the government’s right to tax airspace in a series of now-deleted tweets. If Lee succeeds this time around, the DSPA predicts dire times for both hobbyists and commercial pilots.
‘Can you imagine having to keep track of each and every municipality you fly in that day, as well as what the state and county will be charging? How many new lines will this add to your invoice template? And that’s assuming your clients will even allow you to pass along that cost.’
‘Can you imagine having to keep track of each and every municipality you fly in that day, as well as what the state and county will be charging? How many new lines will this add to your invoice template? And that’s assuming your clients will even allow you to pass along that cost. How will you keep track of those new regulations? This would create the very “patchwork quilt of UAS regulations” that the FAA is concerned about,’ reads their post.
These new restrictions would become effective in four years time, from when the bill gets approved. If you’re a United States resident and would like to make your voice heard about this new bill, you should contact your local senator.