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U.S. Department of Transportation to ease federal drone regulations with proposed rule

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced a proposed rule easing federal drone regulations The proposed rule would allow drone operators to fly their devices at night and above crowds without special waivers, if certain conditions are met DOT plans to seek public comments to develop future drone regulations to address public safety, security and privacy concerns

On January 14, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao announced a proposed rule easing federal drone regulations. In a speech to attendees at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting, Secretary Chao said the proposed rule would allow drone operators to fly devices at night and above crowds without special waivers, if certain conditions are met. Those conditions include requiring drone operators to have appropriate training and using tested and approved drones that have anti-collision lighting. Secretary Chao stated the proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register this spring.

In her remarks, Secretary Chao also committed to developing additional rules to address the public safety, security and privacy concerns related to drones. In response to public concerns, especially those at the local level, DOT has pledged to publish a separate but related rule that will establish identification requirements for drones and operators. The administration anticipates proposing this identification rule in May 2019, which the Federal Aviation Administration has said it will finalize prior to the new rules related to crowds and night flight.

Counties are responsible for ensuring public safety and privacy in our communities, including addressing these concerns related to the use of drone technology. As the federal government considers new regulations, counties should be empowered to implement local ordinances, including those related to lower levels of altitude, time-and-day of operation restrictions and enforcement capabilities. NACo has been at the forefront of federal unmanned aerial systems (UAS) regulations and stands ready to work with our federal partners to continue advocating for county priorities.

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