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State drone laws could clash with federal drone policy

North Dakota prohibits mounting lethal weapons on drones. Arkansas won't allow remote-controlled aircraft to photograph critical buildings such as power plants and oil refineries. Michigan bans using drones for hunting — or to harass hunters.

And North Carolina requires commercial drone operators to take a test to ensure they're familiar with the rules of the road.

These are among state- and city-level laws adopted – among hundreds of more bills proposed – to regulate the fast-growing world of drones. But these local laws are on a collision course with the Federal Aviation Administration, which contends it controls the airspace and wants to set a single national policy for drones instead of a  patchwork of local laws.

FAA’s authority over airspace is unquestioned for safety issues such as keeping drones lower than 400 feet or away from airports, said Troy Rule, an associate professor of law at Arizona State University. Whether that authority extends to issues like privacy is a matter of debate, he said.


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