The Property Drone Consortium (PDC) is speaking out against the recently proposed Drone Federalism Act of 2017, which would give state and local governments greater authority to regulate the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
The PDC consists of insurance, construction, education, roofing and other enterprises who are working together to promote research and development and the review of regulations for the use of drones for assessing property and structures. Charter members include Allstate Corp., American Family Insurance, Auto-Owners Insurance, EagleView Technologies Inc., Erie Insurance and Pilot Catastrophe Services Inc.
The consortium also includes the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety as a technology advisor, the National Roofing Contractors Association as an honorary member and the Rochester Institute of Technology as a technology member.
According to the group, the bill would grant state and local governments the right to issue a broad array of restrictions on the use of UAS below 200 feet above ground level or within 200 feet of a structure.
The PDC claims that much of the public’s current negative experience with UAS is the result of improper use of drones by hobbyists and recreational users. In turn, the consortium believes it is premature for Congress to designate or transition any authority specifically to how UAS are used commercially to any state or local government.
The PDC believes there will be critical commercial and governmental applications that can be conducted under 200 feet that will not impact an individual’s privacy. Businesses that operate nationwide – or even across several jurisdictions – would be greatly burdened if every state, county and/or city had a unique set of laws or regulations regarding UAS operations.
Moreover, according to the group, as the Section 333 process showed, obtaining the consent of every property owner for an operation can be difficult, time-consuming or virtually impossible in certain circumstances. In turn, such a law surely would slow the adoption of UAS for certain valuable applications, the PDC says.
Despite its opposition to the bill, the PDC recognizes there are critical policy issues that need to be addressed for UAS to reach their potential. The PDC says it also appreciates that addressing these issues will require further clarification on the roles of federal, state and local authorities.
As a result, the consortium has entered into public-private partnerships with several federal, state and local officials from across the country to better understand how drones can be safely used in applications such as catastrophic events. Therefore, the group says it is encouraged by the language in the bill to require the FAA to establish pilot programs with state and local authorities to explore how best to address these issues. The PDC stands willing to work with the FAA on these matters regardless of whether such language becomes law.