Federal Regulation

There are a handful of legislative proposals at the federal level that would regulate the non-military, domestic use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The FAA recently released comprehensive rules governing registration and use of UAS. The majority of the proposals have arisen out of privacy concerns and would regulate the use of UAS by law enforcement and other public employees for surveillance purposes; however, a growing number of proposals would restrict the domestic use of UAS as weapon systems.

View Restricted US Airspace
FAA Drone Owner Database 2015-2016

Federal Legislation

  1. FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-95, 126 Stat. 11 (2012) (providing, inter alia, special rules for model aircraft, agency agreements for use of UAVs, and restrictions on airspace).
  2. S.2658 Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016

S.2658 Summary

This bill reauthorizes through FY2017 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and specified FAA programs …

… The Government Accountability Office shall review privacy issues and concerns associated with the operation of unmanned aircraft (drones) in the national airspace system.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) shall issue guidance for the operation of public drones.

The FAA shall carry out a pilot program for airspace hazard mitigation at airports and other critical infrastructure.

The bill requires the FAA to have a Senior Advisor for Unmannned Aircraft Systems Integration.

DOT shall establish a Safety Oversight and Certification Advisory Committee …

S.2658 'Federal Preemption' Clause (§2142)

“[Section 2142](a) FEDERAL PREEMPTION.—No State or political subdivision of a State may enact or enforce any law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law relating to the design, manufacture, testing, licensing, registration, certification, operation, or maintenance of an unmanned aircraft system, including airspace, altitude, flight paths, equipment or technology requirements, purpose of operations, and pilot, operator, and observer qualifications, training, and certification.”

Federal Court Cases

United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256 (1946) (“Landowner . . . must have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere . . . The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as [he] can occupy or use in connection with the land.”).

Allegheny Airlines v. Cedarhurst, 238 F.2d 812 (2d Cir. 1956) (“The federal regulatory system, if valid, has preempted the field [regulating airspace] below as well as above 1,000 feet from the ground.”).

Congressional Reports

Congressional Research Service Report, “Unmanned Aircraft Operations in Domestic Airspace: U.S. Policy Perspectives and the Regulatory Landscape.” Click here to read the report.

Congressional Research Service Report, “Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations.” Click here to read the report.

FAA Regulations

General UAS Regulations

FAA Final Rule (June 2016) Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems

List of FAA Rules Governing the Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Flight & Functionality Restrictions

H.R. 798: To amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to prohibit the flying of unmanned recreational aircraft near commercial airports.

Introduced: February 5, 2015

Sponsor: Representative Gregory Meeks (NY)

Status: February 6, 2015–Referred to the Subcommittee on Aviation.

H.R. 798
S. 387: Safe Skies for Unmanned Aircraft Act of 2015.

Introduced: February 5, 2015

Sponsor: Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK)

Status: February 5, 2015–Introduced in Senate

S. 387
S. 1314: Commercial UAS Modernization Act.

Introduced: May 13, 2015

Sponsor: Senator Cory Booker (NJ)

Status: May 13, 2015–Introduced in Senate

S. 1314

FAA Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Overview of Small UAS NPRM

This two page overview lists all of the pertinent provisions of the Small UAS NPRM in bullet point format.

Date of Posting: February 23, 2015

Comments Due By: April 24, 2015

Overview
Full Text of Small UAS NPRM

This is the full text of the Small UAS NPRM, along with the link to post comments in the Federal Register.

Date of Posting: February 23, 2015

Comments Due By: April 24, 2015

Full Text

Privacy

H.R. 5961: Farmer's Privacy Act of 2012

“To provide reasonable limits, control, and oversight over the Environmental  Protection Agency’s use of aerial surveillance of America’s farmers.”

Introduced: June 19, 2012

Sponsor: Representative Shelley Moore Capito (WV)

Status: September 20, 2012–Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 493.

HR 5961
H.R. 637: Preserving American Privacy Act of 2013

“To provide for a legal framework for the operation of public unmanned aircraft systems, and for other purposes.”

Introduced: February 13, 2013

Sponsor: Representative Ted Poe (TX)

Status: April 8, 2013–Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, And Investigations.

H.R. 637
H.R. 972: Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2013

“To protect individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles commonly called drones, and for other purposes.”

*Identical to S. 1016

Introduced: March 5, 2013

Sponsor: Representative Austin Scott (GA)

Status: April 8, 2013–Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, And Investigations.

H.R. 972
S. 1016: Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2013

“To protect individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles commonly called drones, and for other purposes.”

*Identical to H.R. 972

Introduced: May 22, 2013

Sponsor: Senator Rand Paul (KY)

Status: May 22, 2013–Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

S. 1016
H.R. 1262: Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2013

“To amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to provide guidance and limitations regarding the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into United States airspace, and for other purposes.”

Introduced: March 19, 2013

Sponsor: Representative Edward J. Markey (MA)

Status: March 22, 2013–Referred to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.

H.R. 1262
S. 1243: Making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation

“SEC. 119E. None of the funds in this Act may be used to issue regulations on the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace until the Secretary submits to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations the report related to the privacy implications of unmanned aerial systems described in the explanatory statement accompanying this Act.”

Status: June 27, 2013–Passed by Committee on Appropriations

S. 1243

Domestic Use of Force

H.R. 1083: No Armed Drones Act (NADA) of 2013

“To amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to establish prohibitions to prevent the use of an unmanned aircraft system as a weapon while operating in the national airspace system, and for other purposes.”

Introduced: March 12, 2013

Sponsor: Representative Michael C. Burgess (TX)

Status: March 13, 2013–Referred to the Subcommittee on Aviation.

H.R. 1083
S. 505: To prohibit the use of drones to kill citizens of the U.S. within the U.S.

Introduced: March 7, 2013

*Identical to H.R. 1242

Sponsor: Senator Ted Cruz (TX)

Status: March 11, 2013–Read the second time. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 22.

S. 505
H.R. 1269: Life, Liberty, and Justice for All Americans Act

“To prohibit the use of lethal military force against citizens of the United States located within the United States.”

Introduced: March 19, 2013

Sponsor: Representative Trey Radel (FL)

Status: April 15, 2013–Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, And Investigations.

H.R. 1269

Private Use

S. 1057: Safeguarding Privacy and Fostering Aerospace Innovation Act of 2013

“To prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft systems by private persons to conduct surveillance of other private persons, and for other purposes.”

Introduced: May 23, 2013

Sponsor: Senator Mark Udall (CO)

Status: May 23, 2013–Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

S. 1057