These three U.S. states have no state-level drone laws. Is that a good thing?

Three U.S. states have no state-level drone laws. Those three, shall we say, “lawless states” are Alabama, Missouri, and South Carolina.

That’s according to Go.Verizon, which is an authorized premium partner of Verizon. Go.Verizon analyzed laws across all 50 states to generate a report about the states with the most and fewest drone laws. The report was based no data gathered together by UAV Coach, which is primarily known as a Part 107 online study course provider, and grouped drone laws into 15 categories.

Here were some interesting findings:

  • Alabama, Missouri, and South Carolina have no state-leve drone laws.
  • Oregon, Texas, and Utah all had state-level drone laws for at least six categories.
  • New Jersey is the only state with a law related to operating drones while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Minnesota is the only state with a law that requires drone insurance.
  • The most common category of law is around how close drones can get to certain buildings or people (24 states have enacted such a law).

Go.Verizon created an infographic showing the breakdown of the 15 categories of drone laws, and which states have enacted laws within them:

And which states show up most frequently in this report? While you won’t see Alabama, Missouri, and South Carolina named at all above, you’ll frequently find Oregon, Texas, and Utah most often.

Go.Verizon also ranked the states in a heat map by most to fewest drone laws. Dark red states have the most drone laws, while light red states have very few. Grey states have no. Here’s that map:

But is having many laws around drones a good or a bad thing for the drone industry? It depends on who you ask.

More versus fewer drone laws

Unless you’re an anarchist or a statist, it’s tough to say which is better. For most Americans, the answer lies probably somewhere in-between, where some laws are good and some are bad.

In the case of drones, some of these state-level drone laws actually promote more drone flying, while some cut back on it. For example, rules providing funding for drone research are probably welcome by most folks within the drone industry hoping to see the government further promote drones. Then there are some laws, like New Jersey’s law about how you can’t operate drones under the influence, that are generally welcome by the drone industry too. After all, you don’t want a drunk drone pilot to crash and give the industry a bad name.

Other laws are more open to debate. Some laws that, say, require registration and licensing for commercial use of drones, are welcome by some who want to see consistency and standards within the industry. Others dislike such laws, stating that they add on to the paperwork and cost of doing business, and create what they say are unnecessary barriers to entry.

We’ve seen similar debate on the federal level for topics like Remote ID regulation for drones. Some drone industry voices have welcomed remote ID rules. For example, the Academy of Model Aeronautics applauded how the restrictions would help prioritize “the safety and security of the national airspace.” Many agreed that rules intended to make things safer for everyone are always better. But others have expressed concern that Remote ID rules create extra costs and add potential security risks.

Federal versus state-level drone laws

Then there’s the debate around whether it’s better for drones too be regulated on a federal level, or if state-level drone laws are better. For starters, the supremacy clause guarantees that federal laws and treaties take precedence over state law, so any state laws that contradict them would not be held up.

But as far as whether states should be making drone laws is open to debate — and likely not a black and white issue. Perhaps look back to your high school history classes, where you might have discussed the merits of federalism (the division of power between the central government and local governments).

State-wide laws can often better meet local needs, offer diversity within the country, create more efficiencies by allowing laws to pass in one area that might be held up in another area, and get more people involved and voices hear.

But by giving more power to local governments, that can also limit freedoms, as some states enact rules that infringe on what you can do. In the case of drones, that means prohibiting if drones can take off in certain areas or only allowing you to fly if you have insurance which could provide a financial limitation. And while some can argue that state-level drone laws created more efficiencies, some argue that they create more inefficiencies as rules are different in states and can create confusion or draw away duplicative resources.

And while some states do have laws about whether or not drones can take off in certain areas, only the FAA can restrict airspace. Though, the FAA itself can’t make laws – only develop guidelines and regulations.

See the full report on state-level drone laws from Go.Verizon here. How do you feel about state-level drone laws? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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