McKenna law firm seeks federal regulatory UAS preemption

By Emily Aasand | October 15, 2014

McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP has petitioned the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, on behalf of its unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) Advisory Group, requesting that any Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the FAA addressing small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) include a regulation that preempts state and local regulation of sUAS including design, sale, distribution, use or operation.

“What we’re requesting is that the FAA, as part of their federal rulemaking process where they define the operation use of navigable airspace in UAS, include a preemption provision that says essentially no state can regulate the use of UAS,” said Mark Dombroff, a McKenna partner who formerly headed the U.S. Department of Justice’s aviation litigation group.

“The language we’re proposing would preempt, in other words preclude, any state UAS specific laws relating to the design, use or operation of UAS even if it’s for the purpose of privacy,” said Larry Ebner, a nationally recognized authority on federal preemption.

The UAS Advisory Group is an extension of McKenna Long & Aldridge’s long-standing representation of the aerospace industry and had several members sign off on the letter to the administrator. The advisory group is roughly 20 to 30 companies, users, operators, companies who want to be in the UAS business and is speaking up for pressing issues related to UAS such as federal preemption.

The petition, which was prepared in union with McKenna attorneys, explained that a sUAS preemption regulation would be in the public interest and preserve and promote aviation safety.

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

“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,” said Lisa Ellman, co-chair of McKenna’s UAS practice.

 According the company, McKenna also has a UAS practice group, which is a group of attorneys and policy professionals within the firm. “Our team is comprised of attorneys and professionals with deep aviation, public policy and litigation experience,” the practice group said. “Our work focusses on policy-making at every level of government as well as the multitude of potential legal and other challenges that may arise including, but not limited to, design an operator certification, operations in civil U.S. airspace, insurance and risk management, among others.”