Arizona Bill Would Preempt Local Drone Regulations; New FAA Rules Could Preempt State

By Jacob McAuliffe
Published: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 8:48am
Updated: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 9:40am

The town of Paradise Valley is hoping the governor will veto a recently passed bill that would once again preempt local control. Senate Bill 1449 prevents city governments from regulating drones.

“The town generally prefers local control and we’ve already adopted a local ordinance on drones and we like our ordinance on drones,” said Andrew Miller, an attorney for Paradise Valley.

He hopes the governor will veto the bill.

SB 1449’s preemption clause is favorable for companies such as Google and Amazon that want to use drones to deliver their products. The companies did not want to have to worry about following an assortment of different city laws, said Senator Kavanagh, the bill’s sponsor.

“It would have made it next to impossible for commercial enterprises to use drones, especially for package delivery,” he said.

Now, model aircraft flying in public parks and drones owned by cities are the only unmanned aircraft local governments will be able regulate.

The state law also looks to address privacy concerns and prohibits using drones to photograph people or private property without consent. It makes it a felony to fly a drone near or use a drone to photograph “critical facilities,” such as hospitals, power plants, and courthouses without prior permission.

However, SB 1449 could also soon be preempted. Attached to this year’s Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act is a measure that would prevent state and local governments from regulating drones.

Companies that want to use drones to deliver products such as Amazon and Google are lobbying for laws that preempt state control as well, said Arizona State University law professor Troy Rule.

“It would be much easier and less expensive for them to simply go to one place—the FAA—and get authorization and under that authorization have rights to fly just about anywhere they want,” he said. “That would save them tons of money.”

The deadline for Congress to reauthorize the FAA is July 15th. The FAA Reauthorization act passed through the U.S. Senate in April.

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