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Municipal Regulation and Use of Drones: FAA Rules, State Laws, and Preemption Issues

Leveraging Opportunities and Overcoming Challenges of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will explore issues facing municipalities due to increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)--or drones. The panel will discuss current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations regarding drones, preemption issues that local governments must navigate, the use of drones by local governments, and local regulation of drones to further safety, privacy, or proprietary interests.


The use of drones and other UAVs for commercial and recreational purposes continues to increase at a rapid pace. Drones have a variety of applications, from disaster site inspection to film production, to Amazon's desire to use drones to deliver packages.

As drone activity increases, some law firms are launching drone practices to advise clients on a host of issues, including technology, insurance, privacy, product liability, and regulatory compliance. Drone legislation and regulation has been considered and for the most part implemented in nearly every state and major metropolitan area.

UAVs present challenges and opportunities for municipalities. UAVs have multiple potential municipal uses, including surveillance, emergency response, traffic enforcement, and property inspection. Cities also have an interest in regulating drones to protect the privacy and safety of residents.

Regulation of UAVs falls under the authority of the FAA, which regulates U.S. airspace. The FAA recently proposed long-awaited rules that require registration of drones, restrict their size, and limit how high and fast they can fly, making it easier to become a commercial drone operator.

The FAA estimates this rule will result in 600,000 unmanned aircraft being used commercially in the first year. However, the new rule recognizes the authority of states and municipalities to regulate other aspects of drone operation.

Listen as our authoritative panel discusses issues facing municipalities in light of the increased use of UAVs. The panel will outline long-standing and new FAA regulations and rules regarding drones, general preemption issues local governments must navigate, the use of drones by local governments, and local regulation of drones to further safety, privacy, or proprietary interests.



  1. Overview of drone technology and uses
  2. Review of FAA laws, regulations, and implemented "Part 107"
  3. Municipal regulatory issues arising from drone use
  4. Opportunities for municipal use of drones
  5. Preemption issues


The panel will review these and other noteworthy issues:

  • What types of local UAV regulations are most vulnerable to FAA preemption?
  • What risk management issues are raised by municipal use of drones?
  • What privacy rights are implicated by municipal use of drones?
  • How can municipalities use existing laws to regulate drones, such as zoning regulations to restrict drone takeoff and landing sites?
  • What impact will the FAA's new drone rules have on the ability of municipalities to regulate local drone use?


Lightfoot, Thaddeus
Thaddeus R. Lightfoot

Dorsey & Whitney

Mr. Lightfoot has represented clients in numerous private party environmental litigation matters and governmental...  |  Read More

Wright-Bushman, Brian
Brian Wright-Bushman

Aleshire & Wynder

Mr. Wright-Bushman assists the firm’s clients with a wide variety of issues including contracts, public works,...  |  Read More

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