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Which States are Helping Drones Fly?

Nathan Trail, Manager, Government Affairs, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

Drones are changing our lives in incredible ways — through enhancing search and rescue missions, delivering medical supplies, making jobs safer, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and growing our economy. However, conflicting rules at the state and local policy levels could strangle the potential of this exciting industry.

CTA’s latest Innovation Scorecard tracked how all 50 U.S. states have responded to the rise of drones. There are currently more than 150 individual state laws concerning drones; 19 drone laws were enacted in 2016, and 15 new laws have already been enacted this year. These state laws, combined with the more than 120 municipal and county drone ordinances, are some of the biggest public policy challenges the U.S. drone community faces. That’s why CTA advocates for harmonized drone rules at the federal level, under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to keep our skies safe.

Here’s a rundown of some of the drone legislation tracked in this year’s scorecard:

Clear Skies

In 2016, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a law to harmonize drone operations across the state and prohibit municipalities from enacting their own bills. Michigan enacted similar legislation which, in addition, created a task force to assess future drone rules. In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal demonstrated support for federal rulemaking by vetoing a problematic bill and urging local governments to stop enacting their own drone-specific rules.

Partially Cloudy

Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a law to block cities from passing their own drone-specific bills and allow the commercial use of drones. However, the law offers vague and confusing guidelines for drone operations near critical infrastructure, earning the state a ‘B+’ grade in the scorecard’s “Open Roads & Skies” category.

Cloudy Skies Ahead

While states such as Arizona and Michigan are embracing new technologies, others — such as Louisiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin — are falling behind. Last year, Louisiana passed four drone laws, all of which unnecessarily created technology-specific rules concerning behaviors already prohibited under current state law. Oklahoma’s rushed approach to HB 2599 now conflicts with federal rules circulated by the FAA, and Wisconsin’s AB 670 allows any city, village, town or county to enact its own drone rules, hindering the growing drone capabilities in the state.

To see how your state ranked, check out the “Open Roads and Skies” category in the 2017 Innovation Scorecard.