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August 17, 2016
New Report on Cities and Drones Released by National League of Cities

WASHINGTONThe National League of Cities (NLC) today announced the release of Cities and Drones, a new report that provides cities with insight on the recently released Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules relating to drone operation. The report also provides suggestions for how local governments can craft their own drone ordinances to encourage innovation while also protecting their cities. In addition to the report, NLC posted a blog to help city officials understand the impact drones are having in cities.

The term "drone" can refer to any type of unmanned aircraft, from small model airplanes that have been flown by hobbyists for years to larger military drones that conduct stealth reconnaissance or targeted strikes. In 2015, world sales of drones hit 4.3 million. Cities are using drones in a variety of ways, including for law enforcement and firefighting, as rural ambulances, and for inspections, environmental monitoring and disaster management. Commercial uses include precision farming, aerial photography, and - in the near future - package delivery.

"This report serves as a primer on drones for local officials," said National League of Cities (NLC) CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony. "Whether they are revolutionizing search and rescue capabilities or helping realtors show off their homes, drones are lowering the cost and increasing the reach of airborne services. As our skies are becoming more crowded, cities must be able to decide how and when they want to see drones used in their communities."

There are three spheres of drone activity which city officials must tackle: private use, public use and commercial use. To protect communities, promote innovation and avoid preemptive regulatory action, cities shoulfocus on the following issues when enacting a drone related ordinance:

  • Using land use and zoning powers to designate when and where drones may take off, land and operate, as well as any operational limitations or criteria.
  • Creating an ordinance that punishes operators for operating an unmanned aircraft in a manner that recklessly endangers persons or property while considering appropriate enforcement infrastructure.

To learn more about the ways cities can both protect and innovate using drones, see the full Cities and Drones report here.

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