The matter of local jurisdictions issuing moratoriums on unmanned aerial vehicles raises legal questions that lawyers at various levels of government are going to have to work out. So says a U.S. official who directs an office overseeing UAVs.
Noting that the federal government has control over the nation’s airways, Jim Williams, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, told Government Video, UAV rulings by local and state governments raise questions lawyers must confront.
Williams was responding to questions following a presentation he made on Feb. 13, 2013 at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned Systems Program Review in McLean, Va.
On Feb. 4, 2013 Charlottesville, located about 50 miles northwest of Richmond, became the first U.S. city to pass anti-drone legislation banning UAVs used by police and the military from passing over the city’s airspace, as well as preventing any city agency from acquiring drones.
In addition, Charlottesville urged the U.S. and Virginia governments “to adopt legislation prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance, and prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a federal or state court.”
Williams referred questions on the action taken by Charlottesville to the FAA’s general counsel’s office. “I’m not a lawyer” he said, adding he is therefore unable to “interpret” the legality of the ban.
However, while Williams said he could not comment, the AUVSI issued a statement “regarding the moratorium from Charlottesville” which says, “We’d urge the Virginia Legislature to reject a moratorium. If Virginia passes a moratorium, the state could lose out on capturing hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of new jobs that will be created as the technology expands.
“A moratorium would also unnecessarily limit the ability of police, firefighters and other first responders to do what they do best, keep the public safe from harm. We can integrate this technology in a way that recognizes the benefits, creates jobs and protects the rights of citizens.”