As drone sales in the United States continue to grow, the legal issues they present are likely to induce new attempts to regulate drone flights at the state and local level. As the legal framework allowing drones to fly within our communities develops, the resulting laws will impact the ability of local communities to control drone use within their borders and restrict landowners’ property rights. As shown by Newton’s recent foray into municipal drone regulation, the role local communities can play in this legal framework remains unclear.
The recent federal District Court decision in Singer v. Newton held that Newton’s 2016 drone ordinance was preempted by federal legislation directing the Federal Aviation Administration to incorporate drones into the national airspace. However, the decision did not consider important questions concerning drone use and private property rights, which remain a stumbling block in the development of drone laws across the country.