Drone Regulation: What’s the law when it comes to community associations and municipalities?

Drone regulations for municipalitiesThe Texas Privacy Act, also known as Chapter 423 of the Texas Government Code, focuses on regulating the taking or recording of images with the use of unmanned aircraft. More recently, on June 21, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) released a summary detailing safety regulations for the commercial use of small unmanned aircraft (“drones”). However, questions remain as to whether community associations (“HOAs” or “POAs”) can and should regulate the use of drones in their respective communities. This also has implications for municipalities as well because there currently are no standard regulations governing drone usage at the municipal level. The lack of regulations amongst lower levels of government is a result of the ground-breaking and innovative nature of the drone market. Consequently, community associations and municipalities alike face a difficult challenge in terms of creating appropriate regulations in an unprecedented area of law.

With the release of their summary, the FAA predicted an extreme surge in the commercial use of drones thus predicting that a heavy presence of drone traffic will begin to develop in and around residential areas.  Therefore, community associations and municipalities have reason to be concerned and may want to consider adopting regulations restricting the use of drones in their communities. The presence of drones raises legitimate public health, safety, and welfare concerns as well as privacy issues. In doing so, a community association or municipality considering the adoption of regulations faces the difficult task of balancing its regulations with the potential benefit its community could reap from this potentially vast market of commercial drone usage.

The Nichols Firm, PLLC, works with community associations (which in Texas are usually called HOAs and POAs) and municipalities to review, refresh and sometimes develop new regulations for their communities, as well as private individuals and developers to help them understand the potential scope of these issues and how to address them. Drone regulation represents a new frontier in aerial regulations. If you would like more information about this subject or our suite of legal services, contact us.

Co-contributor: Craig D. Valenta, Law Clerk (https://www.linkedin.com/in/craig-valenta-49b24266)

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