• The Conference

Speaker Spotlight


Q&A with
Sarah Nilsson, attorney and assistant aviation law professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Saran Nilsson, attorney and assistant aviation law professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, will be participating in the unique discussion scheduled for Tuesday Nov. 7 at the Arizona UAS Summit & Expo.

Featured in the Arizona UAS Summit & Expo Panel:
Federal Preemption On UAS Laws: Necessity Or Intrusion?


Can you briefly describe the concept of federal preemption?
Federal Preemption is basically the concept whereby federal law supersedes state or local laws especially in an area of the law where Congress has deemed it field preempted. Sometimes even complimentary laws made by states that do not contradict federal law are preempted.

Should Congress pass legislation specifically giving the FAA preemption authority? Why or why not?
I do not believe that is necessary, as in 1926 and again specifically in 1958 Congress delegated power over the national airspace to the FAA. Thus the FAA has sole authority over governing the safe and efficient use of the airspace, which by definition is over the US and extending out over US territorial waters.

From a pilot’s perspective, why is it important for FAA regulations to preempt state and local laws?
From a safety standpoint it is crucial that there be one set of rules issued by the FAA for airspace everywhere in the country. Having lack of standardization and a patchwork of laws varying from state to state or worse city to city within each state, makes it confusing and impossible to adhere to all of them. It makes it very unsafe for the pilot not to mention impossible to comply with and thus subjecting the pilot to potential infractions of any number of laws.

With regard to UAS law, what is within the jurisdiction of state and municipal governments to regulate?
With regard to the safety and efficient use of the airspace this is the domain of FAA law. All else, such as privacy, voyeurism, etc. is within the state's governmental authority to regulate. The issue however, is to delineate, given UAS technology the boundary between the two, safety and efficiency versus privacy.

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