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Government United States News Technology

FAA's Drone Laws Clash With Local Regulations (nytimes.com) 115

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has finally started to roll out its new rules for small drones. The agency was notably slow to do so — slow enough that many cities, counties, and states beat them to it. Now, the FAA's rules are clashing with established and more developed rules, frustrating local lawmakers and confusing drone hobbyists. "Lawmakers said the agency's drone rules did not go as far as many states and municipalities that are explicitly banning flights within cities and over homes, strengthening privacy protections and imposing steep criminal and financial penalties on violators."

The FAA's slow and unilateral response is causing local officials to fight the nationwide regulations. "There was not supposed to be such a divide between local and federal drone regulations. Congress instructed the FAA three years ago to write laws for drones, a nascent technology at the time. Yet the agency struggled to create first-time rules for the category that would balance a public outcry over safety concerns with the economic benefits drone makers promised from the machines." Meanwhile, tech companies focused on drone development are pleased with the FAA's light touch. There are hobbyists on each side of the issue; some are glad to avoid more restrictive and complicated local regulations, while others wish the government would do more to slow the rush of unprepared and reckless new drone owners.

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FAA's Drone Laws Clash With Local Regulations

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  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @09:57AM (#51195243)

    The FAA has no jurisdiction over hobby drones in my neighborhood. Those drones cannot fly high enough to even risk an incident with interstate air travel or the military. The US Constitution affords no such authority to the federal government in such matters and there is no nexus which can be stretched to create one. It's like justifying the drug laws on "smoking weed impacts interstate commerce, so the feds can get involved." Well, no, smoking locally grown weed in the same municipality or state or flying a drone that never actually interferes with interstate travel of goods and people happens entirely within a state's borders and the US Constitution affords almost no jurisdiction in such cases.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The Commerce Clause can be extended to cover almost anything. Your drone is capable of crossing state lines, so it can be regulated. End. Of. Story.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The FAA has no jurisdiction over hobby drones in my neighborhood.

      Citation Needed. (Prior Case Law seems to contradict your opinions)

      Those drones cannot fly high enough to even risk an incident with interstate air travel or the military.

      I'm pretty sure that if you stand on top of a 500 foot cliff (or building), and fly the drone over the edge, it doesn't just magically appear below the altitude limit. And unless you're claiming there are no airports and the military never, ever conducts any operations in your area, the height isn't even relevant.

      As for the article, it's the usual misinformation. The FAA has set restrictions, in most cases local government are more than capa

    • by cdwiegand ( 2267 )

      The US Constitution gives Congress sole law writing authority and they passed laws creating the FAA. Those various laws also grant the FAA the authority to do this. Constitutionally they are very well covered. If you disagree, try suing them and taking it to SCOTUS. Even they will agree due to safety being the main driver.

      • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )
        Never heard of state or local laws; that a new level of lack of knowledge on slashdot. Tim S.

        The US Constitution gives Congress sole law writing authority and they passed laws creating the FAA. Those various laws also grant the FAA the authority to do this. Constitutionally they are very well covered. If you disagree, try suing them and taking it to SCOTUS. Even they will agree due to safety being the main driver.

      • by sycodon ( 149926 )

        In this particular case, at this particular time, and IF your local law makers are worse Control Freaks than the feds, it's a good thing. Because you can tell them to shove it, federal supersedes them.

        Don't expect that to last long though.

        • Doesn't work this way with the 2nd amendment - why should it work with something that isn't even a right enumerated in the constitution?

          • Remember the 9th amendment. It is a very powerful reminder of what the Constitution actually does and where our rights actually come from.

      • Well, besides the point that the Constitution only gives Congress LIMITED law writing authority (leaving most such authority to state legislatures), the fact is that among the laws passed by Congress giving authority to the FAA is one which strictly limits their authority to regulate drones. A law which the regulation the FAA is trying to put out there violates.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by BitZtream ( 692029 )

      As soon as that weed is sold, it becomes a federal issue, if nothing else its a tax issue.

      Which is why the feds don't bust people who grow their own.

      The constitution defines a couple fist fulls of Musts and Must nots, everything else it leaves to Congress to control, the Supreme Court can disagree with Congress and throw it out, but otherwise Congress is actually capable of doing pretty much anything they want.

      And its ignorant fucking statements like yours that are a major contributing factor as to why we h

      • uh, not quite. It is " ignorant fucking statements like yours that are a major contributing factor as to why we have such a shitty Congress and national state of affairs" (to quote you). The 9th Amendment very clearly points out that the Constitution is in no way a comprehensive list of the rights we, the people (individually and collectively in groups of our choosing) enjoy and the 10th very clearly points out that the Federal government has absolutely no authority to do anything unless the Constitution ex

    • by bonehead ( 6382 )

      Well, no, smoking locally grown weed in the same municipality or state or flying a drone that never actually interferes with interstate travel of goods and people happens entirely within a state's borders and the US Constitution affords almost no jurisdiction in such cases.

      By smoking locally grown weed in Colorado, you have reduced the demand for weed grown in California, thereby affecting interstate commerce and giving the federal government jurisdiction.

      If that sounds ridiculous, that's because it is. However, that argument still gets used (successfully) when the feds really, really want to stick their noses in where they don't belong.

      • You are correct sir.

        In fact, that't exactly the argument that that the US government used in Wickard vs. Filburn [wikipedia.org] to make the interstate commerce clause apply to pretty much any thing that like.

        Though in this case, I do agree that airspace should be a uniform federal thing. J. Random local-yokel DA should not get to make a name for himself by prosecuting model aircraft hobbyists for made-up offenses because the word "drone" is unpopular these days. Nor should they be allowed to give jimmy-bob the OK to fir

    • by bkmoore ( 1910118 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @11:02AM (#51195539)

      The FAA has no jurisdiction over hobby drones in my neighborhood.

      Yes they do.

      Those drones cannot fly high enough to even risk an incident with interstate air travel or the military.

      Are you even familiar with your local airspace? Do you have a copy of the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) and keep it updated? Do you have a current VFR sectional? Have you checked the NOTAMS (Notices to Airmen)? Do you know where military training routes and training areas are located? Do you know what the performance of all drones are?

      The US Constitution affords no such authority to the federal government in such matters and there is no nexus which can be stretched to create one...

      Along those lines of logic, what if each municipality or State decided to create their own airspace definitions and issue their own pilots licenses? What if for example, the State of Louisiana decided to have their ATC only speak French? French is after all one of the official ICAO languages and is spoken by a sizable population in that state.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      So apparently you've never heard of either the Commerce Clause not the Supremacy Clause.
      You should correct that deficiency.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      By reading the article it seems to me that the issue is that the FAA rules are more relaxed than what some local rules are.

      But don't forget that there is already a federal exemption for RC aircraft in effect as well that predates the drones. Notice that drones are just a special variant of RC aircraft.

      In any case FAA may still want to have a word when it comes to drones and RC aircraft in areas close to airfields - it would be annoying if a drone was causing damage to a manned aircraft, even if the damage w

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      and there is no nexus which can be stretched to create one.

      If sufficient nexus can be established for Gun-Free School Zones Act the by adding "has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce", then Congress will have no trouble establishing it for the FAA if it has not already done so.

      http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-... [findlaw.com]

  • many states and municipalities that are explicitly banning flights within cities and over homes

    By the FAA's definition, a drone is an aircraft. States and municipaliteis dont have the unilateral authority to declare no-fly zones. thats the UN security council, NATO, NORAD, and the FAA. its the same reason why as an amateur radeo operator, the local law prohibiting my short wave antenna is entirely unenforceable. Radio communication is the sacrosanct jurisdiction of the FCC.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just like homeowners associations cannot prohibit satellite dishes because they think they are ugly. (That one is explicitly mentioned in federal law, actually.)

      Federal law always trumps local ones. Always. If the state has one law and the feds make one that supersedes it, then the federal law wins. The states, however, do not have to enforce federal laws. You see this with marijuana laws in particular. Even though it's legal to consume it in Colorado, federal employees can be terminated for using it.

      • It's important to note that while state or local laws cannot supersede federal laws (for example, if the feds say "You can't do {X} legally" and a state says you can, the fact that the state allows it is not an affirmative defense in a federal trial), they can build on them. If the feds say "You can't do {X} legally." the states could say "And you can't do {X.1} legally either."

        One example of this is protected classes in anti-discrimination laws. For example, by federal laws, a business cannot discriminate

      • " If the state has one law and the feds make one that supersedes it, then the federal law wins."

        This sometimes can lead to very ugly legal situations though - with federal, state and local authorities often working to subvert each other and all being constrained by the courts, America has a rich traditional of legal games and tricks, often resorting to indirectly prohibiting what cannot be directly prohibited or passing laws that are impossible to comply with in order to drive away undesirables.

      • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )
        Not always true; if the State passed the law first, the state law is often allowed to stand. I was told about a law that was passed in Michigan related to semi tractor trailers that was passed by the state and it was allowed to stand even though the feds passed one with a lower limits later on. So, semi drivers in Michigan are able to haul more than they can in other states. Tim S.

        Just like homeowners associations cannot prohibit satellite dishes because they think they are ugly. (That one is explicitly mentioned in federal law, actually.)

        Federal law always trumps local ones. Always. If the state has one law and the feds make one that supersedes it, then the federal law wins. The states, however, do not have to enforce federal laws. You see this with marijuana laws in particular. Even though it's legal to consume it in Colorado, federal employees can be terminated for using it. (Ordinary companies can make rules as such but their enforcement is a bit trickier. They can be challenged in court as civil rights violations, depending on the nature of the company rule.)

  • There is nothing more ridiculous than the moral panic over drones.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      No, the most ridiculous are the regulations around "indecency" where a female nipple is considered harmful for kids but not a male nipple.
       

    • There's moral panic over drones? I know that a fair number of people have well-founded privacy and safety concerns, but I don't think I've seen anyone say that drones are an affront to God or a violation of their basic ethics.
      • by borcharc ( 56372 ) *

        No one has a right to privacy in an area a drone could see. If you have a privacy concern close your blinds or go inside. If you want to worry about privacy at least pick something that actually invades it like license plate scanners vs a drone that you are convinced is spying on you.

        • by Gryle ( 933382 )
          A drone could certainly see into my backyard from the right height and angle. I don't have a right to privacy in my own backyard?
  • There is nothing preventing local authorities (or organizations) passing more restrictive laws in the aviation world, as long as those laws amplify the nationally established ones.

    • Correction: By laws I mean regulations.

    • There is nothing preventing local authorities (or organizations) passing more restrictive laws in the aviation world, as long as those laws amplify the nationally established ones.

      I know what an "amplifier" is in electronic terms. I have no idea what you mean by "amplify" when it comes to laws.

      Are you seriously claiming that a state could pass a law that only multi-engine aircraft can fly within state borders, or that all aircraft above 14,000 AGL must operate IFR, or other such nonsense? Or that the federal 18,000 AGL Class A airspace rules don't apply in their state?

      I really can't tell if it is tighter or looser regulations are what you mean by "amplify". I can tell that allow

  • This should not turn into a long running battle. Drones are going to be a huge part of life soon. Delivery drones will fly over homes and law enforcement will have a field day with these things. Anything that can be seen by an aircraft at 3,000 feet is already in public view so it is not a privacy issue. We do not need tens of thousands of court cases, at the public expense, while every nut job in the nation tries to limit the use of drones. Imagine fire detection abilities in t
    • by bonehead ( 6382 )

      Seriously? You're taking the position that what this country needs is MORE surveillance of the public?

      Please die in a fire.

  • And it's been raining ever since. So I've only flown it once. I'm pretty freaking excited to fly it though. And yes. I did register it with the FAA. Here's a little review I wrote comparing it to the Phantom 2 I bought and returned after only 30 days a year ago.

    https://www.thegeekpub.com/400... [thegeekpub.com]

  • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @10:49AM (#51195473)

    Drones are a useful tool, a fun toy and sometimes a nuisance. Drones are not a serious hazard unless they are used in a completely reckless or criminal manner that would trigger a bunch of generalized laws already on the books that apply generally to reckless behavior and criminal intent.

    Far more likely it is criminals acting within government that will abuse the power of government to regulate drones to cover up criminal behavior by keeping people from documenting criminality with amateur video. It is no different than when bad cops threaten and confiscate cell phones to cover up police abuse.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Obfuscant ( 592200 )

      Drones are not a serious hazard unless they are used in a completely reckless or criminal manner that would trigger a bunch of generalized laws already on the books that apply generally to reckless behavior and criminal intent.

      That statement is almost a tautology, only failing to be so because you used the word "completely", and because the law defines "reckless" in a bit stricter sense than you seem to. (I.e., "completely reckless" is not a legal term; it is reckless or it isn't.) Not every stupid thing someone does that violates the FARs is reckless, but that does't make them legal or reasonable.

      There are many stupid things that people do that are not reckless, and smart people can do reckless things. Let's stop using a legall

  • I don't have a problem with the FAA and local laws being so different and addressing different topics. Unless you live in a place like Texarcana, your neighbor peeking over your wall isn't a federal or interstate problem and the feds shouldn't be trying to protect privacy from peek-by-droners. Similarly, the local governments shouldn't be worrying about interference with interstate flights and all the other issues that the feds should be regulating.

    What's wrong with two (or even three) sets of rules, each m

    • What's wrong with two (or even three) sets of rules, each made by government entities tasked with addressing scopes of problems?

      Someone flying below 1000' AGL with a good camera can take a lot of incriminating pictures of your daughter by your swimming pool, especially if her boyfriend (or girlfriend) is there too.

      Your city, in response, passes a law, based on privacy concerns, that nobody can fly less than 2000' AGL over your fair city. Unfortunately, this conflicts with the existing federal laws on minimum safe altitudes. It also conflicts with the VOR approach to the local airport which allows pilots to descend to 650' AGL. It a

      • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

        I started replying but then I realized that it was all just jokes-but-serious that were outing me as a closet-anarchist, without my policy actually doing any good. I think this means you win, Obfuscant. Touche.

        (For the amusement of the historians, I'll include my draft post below...)

        ...

        Someone flying below 1000' AGL with a good camera can take a lot of incriminating pictures of your daughter by your swimming pool, especially if her boyfriend (or girlfriend) is there too.

        Then my daughter and her girlfriend s

  • by gavron ( 1300111 ) on Monday December 28, 2015 @10:51AM (#51195481)

    The FAA has jurisdiction over all airspace in the US including that below 500 ft above ground level (AGL). https://www.faa.gov/news/updat... [faa.gov]
    Specifically *ALL* airspace within 12 nautical miles (NM) of the US coastline is subject to FAA jurisdiction. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] (you can read the boring primary source if you follow links at http://macklow.com/airspace/ [macklow.com])

    Federal law comes before and above local and state law, so local and state politicians can growse and complain, but they passed laws about airspace... and they have no jurisdiction over that airspace. The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) makes sure of that. http://litigation.findlaw.com/... [findlaw.com]

    Finally, these are not drones, and the FAA has not promulgated regulation about drones. These are unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). This is what the FAA registration is for, and it DOES cover model aircraft above a certain weight. https://www.faa.gov/uas/ [faa.gov]

    Ehud
    P.S. The following articles all APPEAR to be different... until you read the comments, and realize that every time this topic comes up the same people come out of the woodwork to make up the same stories. Please help spread the facts. (See links above).
    http://news.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]
    http://tech.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]
    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/... [slashdot.org]
    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/... [slashdot.org]
    and even on a California legislature story: http://yro.slashdot.org/story/... [slashdot.org]

    • The FAA's authority over UAS is not as cut-and-dried as all that.
      I'm a model aircraft flier and a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, and the AMA is of the opinion that the FAA has overreached with its new registration rule. Specifically, they believe that Congress prevents the FAA from regulating model aircraft due to an exemption in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The AMA's official blog has a recent article (link is below, just cut'n'paste it) which includes the following statement

  • while others wish the government would do more to slow the rush of unprepared and reckless new drone owners.

    A little red tape might actually help. A measured amount, that is not permitted to be burdensome.

    I would suggest requiring that manufacturers ensure their product is sold on the condition that it will only be sold to a licensed pilot or licensed, or registered drone operator.

    Operating a drone should require a license involving paying perhaps a $20 fee, and proving completion of a qualifying

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They should also have appropriate insurance.
      Lots and lots of insurance.

    • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

      Agreed. Amateur radio requires graduated license tests. The result is a sharp bend in the histogram from technician to extra class licensees; most of the flotsam are kept off frequencies that resonate planet-wide because most use of powerful HF bands is limited to licensees above 'technician.'

      One can imagine a similar tiered system for UAVs. Start with telecommand PEP (transmitter power) of maybe 25mw at 5GHz and no return video or telemetry for unlicensed pilots. That keeps it line-of-sight by nature

      • I would suggest requiring that manufacturers ensure their product is sold on the condition that it will only be sold to a licensed pilot or licensed, or registered drone operator.

        Agreed. Amateur radio requires graduated license tests.

        Except there is no requirement for someone to have an amateur radio license before he can buy a radio capable of transmitting in the amateur band. I don't have to show my license to the guy at the hamfest who is selling recycled Motorola stuff before I can give him $10 for an old Mostar.

        And since building a radio (or UAS) is possible, which parts of either do we say defines the radio (or UAS) and requires a license to possess or buy? (Like "lower receiver" for guns.)

        There should be an exemption for traditional RC activity over recognized fields.

        "Dear Amazon.com: I don't have a drone l

    • Good luck, we can't even get registration for guns that routinely kill innocent people, you expect them to require a license for remote control aircraft, the vast majority are sold as toys for little kids?

      • <flamebait>Good luck, we can't even get registration for guns that routinely kill innocent people,</flaimbait>

        Guns do not routinely kill innocent people. I'm pretty sure that none of the three I currently own are slipping out at night wreaking havoc. Perhaps during the day when I'm not home, but there are no reports of multiple unsolved murders in my neighborhood. Perhaps they're hopping on the free buses run by our city and wiping out large numbers of people a few miles away. If so, I would be fully in support of a law prohibiting unaccompanied firearms from riding public transport.

        What you mean is that some evil

        • Neither do drones or automobiles.

          What's your point exactly?

          • What's your point exactly?

            Pretty simple, I thought. The statement that "guns routinely kill innocent people" is flamebait, pure and simple, and is patently absurd. It is not only false, but irrelevant to any part of this discussion.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Good luck, we can't even get registration for guns that routinely kill innocent people

        Great work continuing with the fear mongering. We know more about guns than drones, however. If you exclude intentional suicides, there is evidence that countries who have done a total ban on guns have equal or more deaths due to violent crime. Also, they even have gun crime --- remember, Paris is a Gun Free Zone, and, yet they still have more serious, not less-serious incidents, b/c the gun wielders don't feel t

  • You always start with the end you want to achieve. You can't get somewhere without knowing where it is, you can't even heuristically reach a goal without some measure of deviance.

    The FAA is notoriously bad at this, always has been. The NTSB has lambasted them multiple times for failures in devising and enforcing regulations. The FAA was also solely responsible for air traffic controllers having no choice but to sleep on duty (not sure that issue was ever fixed).

    I'm not impressed with the NTSB either, but at

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Here’s the Reason The FAA’s Drone Registration System Doesn’t Make Sense [hackaday.com]

    A few years ago, Congress passed the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, an immense 300-page tome that set directives to the FAA including how airports should be improved, what medical certificates apply to what type of pilot, and special rules for model aircraft.

    The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft

    In the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, ‘model aircraft’ are defined as, ‘an unmanned aircraft capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere, flown within visual line of sight, and flown for hobby or recreational purposes.’ If these qualifications are met, the FAA may not make a rule regarding these aircraft, so long as they are not flown within 5 miles of an airport.

    Geez, read about it here.... [slashdot.org]

  • Bunch of local assholes bitching they cant suck money from hobbiests, and that they cant suck the dick of the rich old complainer types.

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