What are the rules on drones?

We receive regular calls concerning the flying of drones (remote controlled helicopters with cameras) asking whether they are legal to operate in Bella Vista. Many desire the city to prohibit drone operation. Currently, the city does not regulate the operation of drone aircraft.

Local governments are largely preempted by federal law from regulating drones as a consequence of federal control of the nation’s airspace. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides regulatory oversight of these devices and acts as a gatekeeper for any local regulation.

The FAA has a very informative Fact Sheet regarding state and local regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Complete operational bans, with the exception of special circumstances, could theoretically be adopted only through consultation with and approval of the FAA, which is doubtful.

Keep in mind that if a person is physically attacked by a drone, such as being physically chased or contacted, this conduct is against the law and the police should be promptly notified. Criminal assault and harassment are not permissible just because they are accomplished through the use of a drone. Depending on the conduct and intent of the operator, other state laws may also provide protection.