McKenna Pursues Federal Regulatory Preemption in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Arena

McKenna Pursues Federal Regulatory Preemption in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Arena


McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP (McKenna), on behalf of members of its UAS Advisory Group, has petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requesting that any Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the FAA addressing small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”) include a regulation that expressly preempts state and local regulation of sUAS including design, sale, distribution, use, or operation. Small UAS are defined as those that weigh less than 55 lbs. and typically fly no more than 400 ft. above ground level.

The preemption petition was signed by Mark Dombroff, a McKenna partner who formerly headed the U.S. Department of Justice’s aviation litigation group, andLarry Ebner, a nationally recognized authority on federal preemption. The petition was prepared in conjunction with McKenna attorneys who have deep experience litigating federal preemption issues in cases involving conflicts between federal and state laws. The petition explains that a sUAS preemption regulation would be in the public interest and preserve and promote aviation safety. It would also facilitate safe and rapid integration of sUAS into the national airspace system.

Ebner explains “the FAA has the know-how, experience, and personnel for regulating UAS on a nationally uniform basis. Allowing each state to adopt its own UAS regulations would jeopardize aviation and public safety by undermining national uniformity.”

As the law struggles to stay in front of the surge in popularity of UAS, McKenna’sUAS Advisory Group, which includes UAS designers, manufacturers, users, operators, trainers, former FAA officials and experienced aviation attorneys, is forging ahead on the pressing issues related to UAS such as federal preemption. This also includes the creation of an open regulatory process that ensures safe, reliable, and timely operation of sUAS.

“At McKenna, our UAS Advisory Group is focused on policy-making during this critical period of federal rulemaking that will shape the regulatory world in which the UAS industry will live,” stated Lisa Ellman, co-chair of McKenna’s UAS practice.

McKenna’s UAS practice group is uniquely qualified to respond to and anticipate the needs of companies who have entered or wish to enter this dynamic emerging marketplace. Our team is comprised of attorneys and professionals with deep aviation, public policy, and litigation experience—including government UAS policy experience in particular. Our work focuses on policy-making at every level of government as well as the multitude of potential legal and other challenges that may arise, such as design and operator certification; operations in U.S. civil airspace; limiting tort liability; insurance and risk management; commercial/contracts; emergency response; privacy; intellectual property; export control; regulatory and enforcement issues; hazardous materials; cybersecurity; and others.