Local Regulating of Drone Activity in Lower Airspace

Chapt. 19, Zoning and Planning Law Handbook, 2017 ed.

22 Boston U. J. Sci. & Tech. L. 239 (2016)

Arizona Summit Law School Paper Series No. 2016-A-02

22 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2016 Last revised: 16 Jul 2017

See all articles by Michael N. Widener

Michael N. Widener

Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Date Written: February 15, 2016

Abstract

Avenues for local government participation in UAV regulation reside in the land planning and zoning processes of cities and metropolitan areas (including via regional transportation planning). My essay explains how land use governance relates intimately to aerial regulation of commercial drones. Soon enough, drone over-flight will affect profoundly cargo transportation inside a community’s boundaries and the quality of life of everyone who lives within them.

My essay describes typical spatial planning and zoning mechanisms (and innovative tweaks to those) that logically interface with low-altitude federal regulation of airspace. The paper speculates on what sorts of local regulations can and should survive scrutiny from the FAA, the drone lobby, municipal governance players, state actors and federal courts. The essay ends by forecasting steps through which local influence builds toward joint control with lower airspace federal regulators in the U.S. Congress and at the federal Department of Transportation.

Keywords: drones, UAVs, UAS, freight delivery, cargo delivery, last mile delivery, FAA, local regulation, municipal regulation, local zoning, general plan, land use policy, preemption, commerce clause, freight transportation, cargo movement, airspace, NASA, supremacy clause

JEL Classification: H70, L62, L93, L98, O38, Q15, R14, R48, R52

Suggested Citation

Widener, Michael N., Local Regulating of Drone Activity in Lower Airspace (February 15, 2016). Chapt. 19, Zoning and Planning Law Handbook, 2017 ed.; 22 Boston U. J. Sci. & Tech. L. 239 (2016); Arizona Summit Law School Paper Series No. 2016-A-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2732845 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2732845

Michael N. Widener (Contact Author)

Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint ( email )

2325 East Camelback Road
Suite 300
Phoenix, AZ 85016
United States

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University ( email )

Prescott, AZ 86301
United States

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