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Commonwealth's Counties

Drone bills generating a buzz in subcommittee

VACo supports a bill that reverses some of the restrictions placed on local governments regarding the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which are also known as drones. The bill advanced out of a House subcommittee.

HB 742 (Bulova) restores some authority to political subdivisions to regulate the use of UAS. Specifically, the bill allows political subdivisions to adopt ordinances or regulations to regulate the take-off and landing of UAS on property owned by the political subdivision, if such regulations are developed and authorized in accordance with the rules and regulations promulgated by the Virginia Department of Aviation. The bill further stipulates that the Department of Aviation consult with UAS industry stakeholders, localities, and other stakeholders in the development of said regulations, and has delayed enactment of January 1, 2021.

Though regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration ultimately pre-empt authority to regulate the use of air space, legislation from the 2018 General Assembly Sessions removed additional local authorities, which has since caused concern over the ability of local governments to regulate use of drones on properties such as county parks, schools, and other areas. This bill represents a compromise between the UAS industry and local government.

VACo supports this legislation and spoke in favor of the bill in the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee of the House Communications, Technology, and Innovation Committee.

Similar legislation – HB 311 (Gooditis) and HB 1227 (LaRock) – was recommended to be incorporated into HB 742 by the subcommittee, which recommended to report the bill unanimously 8-0. HB 742 will now likely be heard by House Communications, Technology, and Innovation Committee on Wednesday, January 29.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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