The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, Uniform Law Commission proposed the “Tort Law Relating to Drones Act.” The proposal seeks to restrict drones from airspace considered within the immediate reach of property owners without consent. The drone industry opposes the model language based on its negative impact on the publicly beneficial use of drone technology.
A Strict Trespass Rule
The essential elements of the proposed model legislation would strictly define drone operations above private property as an aerial trespass, define landowner rights in the airspace of 200 feet or more over land or structures, and create “no-fly” zones over private land. The reasons for the drastic limitations on use of airspace are not apparent nor well-supported by presentations of facts. The legislative theory appears to be that drones interfere with landowner rights.
It is important to note that the federal government has preempted the regulation of US airspace. The purpose of national airspace policy is to eliminate inconsistent local regulation of essential national economic activity.
Model Legislation and the Threat to Drone Technology
Model legislation is influential. Many state legislatures regularly look to the model laws for essential guidance when considering new policies. The model laws offer a ready framework and a guarantee of uniformity or consistency with other states that follow the same model. A restrictive model would block technology innovation by creating legal barriers to drone operations. The weakness of the drone tort legislation is that it does not adequately reflect the public interest in commercial drone technology.
Good Conduct from Good Citizens
Commercial drone operators have an obligation to be good citizens. They must obey laws and regulations that govern drone usage. With a vast US airspace and nearly 100,000 certified remote pilots, the society depends on responsible business conduct.
Currently, the best protection against abuse of landowner rights is in the commercial drone community. Skillful pilots trained in high-quality commercial drone courses understand their obligation to operate their unmanned aerial systems in ways and times that do not interfere with landowner rights.
For example, the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems advises the Nevada FAA drone test sites. The organization promotes commercial drone courses and other advanced training for remote pilots. NIAS is part of the Nevada drone development program and contributes to the national effort to make commercial drone operations safe and practical. The overall goal is to provide the economic and social benefits of drone technology and spur the development of critical air transportation infrastructure. Drones have demonstrated vast potential in a wide range of commercial and public application. Current experiments demonstrate lifesaving efforts like delivering blood and defibrillators to accident scenes, conducting search and rescue, and assisting first responders in fire and accident situation.
Unanimous in Opposition
The commercial drone industry and the federal regulators stand united in opposition to the proposed Tort Law. The FAA and Department of Transportation currently operate research and development projects that involve the use of drones in populated areas and reasonable proximity to structures. There is a clear and vibrant way forward for drone integration. According to industry leaders and relevant federal agencies, it is not in the direction of aerial trespass laws.
Commerical Drone Alliance Adds Dissent to Draft Tort Law
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