Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) President and CEO Brian Wynne recently called on the federal government to assert its authority over the National Airspace System (NAS) and preempt state laws that seek to regulate airspace. He also urged the FAA to finalize its long-overdue small UAS rules as quickly as possible to help increase the safety of the skies.

“The FAA has had more than three years to put a small UAS rule in place. There’s tremendous pent up demand for commercial UAS operations, yet the FAA isn’t expected to meet this deadline,” Wynne said, highlighting the approaching congressionally-mandated deadline of Sept. 30 for the integration of UAS into the national airspace. “The lack of regulations isn’t just limiting the economic potential of this industry; it’s also causing states and municipalities to fill the void with laws that they may not have the authority to enforce,” Wynne said.

The unmanned aircraft industry supports the safe, non-intrusive use of UAS technology, but, he said, only the FAA can regulate airspace, not states and municipalities. “According to the U.S. Code, 'The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States,’” he added.

Without FAA action, a legal mess could form, Wynne said, with challenges to questionable state laws tying up the courts at significant expense to taxpayers. “If the FAA feels it needs clarification of its authority, I would urge Congress to provide such clarity and legislatively settle this issue.”

The world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of unmanned systems and robotics, AUVSI represents more than 7,500 members from 60-plus allied countries involved in the fields of government, industry and academia. AUVSI members work in the defense, civil and commercial markets.