The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently enacted a new rule, 14 CFR Part 107, governing non-recreational operation of small drone aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds (www.faa.gov/uas/media/RIN_2120-AJ60_Clean_Signed.pdf). Local governments may now conduct public drone operations under the rule without first obtaining FAA certification. The new regulations establish standards for who may fly small drone aircraft, how drones may be operated, and how drones are to be registered and inspected to ensure safety.
In addition to understanding how to comply with the FAA regulations, local governments interested in drone operations should be aware of constitutional limitations on drone use, privacy laws, zoning and land use concerns, and the intersection between federal, state and local laws. Local government organizations should continue to stay educated on federal and state regulation of drone use and the proper procedures for conducting public drone operations.