Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), otherwise known as drones, are flying devices that function without the presence of a human pilot physically on board. The use of drones varies from commercial to personal, and they are widely available for purchase.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established federal laws and expectations of those who choose to own and operate drones, including registering personal use drones, abiding by no-fly zones, keeping drones within eyesight during flight, not flying over people and abstaining from flying near airports.
On the U.S. federal level, IAAPA continues to advocate for inclusion of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) provisions in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill to protect the safety of amusement parks and attractions and their guests. The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 expires on September 30, 2018.
The FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016 recognized the unique safety and security risks presented by drones to IAAPA members’ facilities and called on the FAA to establish a system whereby designated entities, including amusement parks, could petition the FAA to prevent unauthorized drones from flying over their operations (Applications for Designation, Section 2209). Unfortunately, the FAA has missed the statutorily established deadline to establish this procedure and implement this provision.
Congress is currently working on a 2018 FAA reauthorization bill and IAAPA is working to ensure that Section 2209 is retained. Should Congress be unable to pass a new FAA reauthorization bill by September 30th, they will pass a short term reauthorization, maintaining current law, and continue to work on a longer-term reauthorization.
However, due to newness of drone technology and lack of legal clarity in terms of state and federal jurisdiction, some states have passed legislation regulating drones at the state and local level and others are following suit.
IAAPA supports the language in P.L. 114-90, Section 2209 (FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016) requiring the FAA to develop a process to petition the FAA to restrict the operation of drones over and in close proximity to fixed-site facilities, such as amusement parks, where unauthorized drone usage presents safety hazards. IAAPA is currently advocating that Section 2209 or similar language be included in the current FAA reauthorization effort. IAAPA also supports counter-drone authority for the Department of Homeland Security and state and local law enforcement.
IAAPA urges members to check the state and local laws where fixed-site attractions are located in order to see if any drone regulations currently exist and how these laws may be utilized to create a safer environment for guests and employees. IAAPA also urges members to report all sightings of unauthorized drones over parks and attractions to the FAA and local law enforcement.