Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, have exploded onto the national airspace in recent years and present myriad novel legal issues. The team at Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell keeps up to speed with these emerging technologies and regularly represents government entities seeking to either use or regulate UAS. We understand local governments’ roles as both potential users and regulators of UAS. Leveraging our experience with pervasive federal law governing the technical, operational and licensing schemes for UAS vehicles and operators, we advise local governments on the scope and limits of their authority with respect to UAS.
Many local governments seek to regulate UAS in their communities for safety, privacy or nuisance concerns. This can be challenging in light of the broad scope of the federal government’s ability to regulate UAS in flight. We regularly assist municipalities in crafting ordinances designed to address local issues while minimizing the possibility of federal preemption.
In particular, we counsel local government airport operators on their rights and responsibilities with respect to safe operation of UAS in airspace near airports. Even in the face of near-exclusive federal preemption, airport operators retain power – and the obligation – to take action. Our lawyers assist in the development and implementation of strategies to address unauthorized or unsafe use of UAS, including training for local law enforcement, procedures for emergency response and public educational campaigns. We also assist public sector clients in securing authorization to utilize UAS for their own purposes. Our expertise in municipal law and familiarity with FAA’s regulatory programs allow us to provide our public sector clients with the range of legal strategies necessary to evaluate each circumstance and craft effective programs and ordinances for the use and management of UAS.