On July 20, 2018, the FAA issued a press release to clarify its position on federal preemption of state and local laws relating to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The brief release reminds states and municipalities that they are preempted from regulating aircraft operations, including flight paths, altitudes, or navigable airspace. On the other hand, however, the FAA acknowledges that states and local governments have the power to regulate landing sites for drones through their land use powers.
The White House unveiled a highly anticipated Drone Integration Pilot Program (“Program”) that will allow state and local government to test different models for low-altitude regulation of drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”). The Program represents a significant break from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) previous position to discourage state and local government involvement in most aspects of UAS operations and is designed to encourage private entities to undertake innovative UAS testing in the United States, such as drone package delivery. It will create more opportunities for cutting-edge commercial UAS flights for communities and operators, but the FAA and commercial aviation will likely continue to resist expanded operations that pose safety risks, including flights near airports.