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Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) – Including Drones, State Regulations, Part 2

June 6, 2018

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) – Including Drones State Regulations

Although the bulk of UAS regulations are federal by the FAA, state and local legislatures have also added their own UAS regulations. Currently, 41 states have enacted legislation concerning UAS, and at least 38 states contemplated some form of UAS regulations in 2017.[i] The FAA’s position is that some types of UAS regulations may be made by State and local governments, specifically: “[l]aws traditionally related to state and local police power – including land use, zoning, privacy, trespass, and law enforcement operations – generally are not subject to federal regulation.”[ii] As a general good practice, check to see if your state or municipal legislature has their own additional rules regarding UAS use. Below are some examples of state regulations exercising state police power.


In 2014, Iowa adopted two different UAS regulations related to the admissibility of information gathered by law enforcement using UAS.

  • Iowa Code § 808.15: “[i]nformation obtained as a result of the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle is not admissible as evidence in a criminal or civil proceeding, unless the information is obtained pursuant to the authority of a search warrant.”[iii]
  • Iowa Code § 321.492B: “[t]he state or a political subdivision of the state shall not use an unmanned aerial vehicle for traffic law enforcement.”[iv]

The Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Legislative Report also surmised that the current trespass statute, Iowa Code § 716.7, could be applied to prolonged intrusions by unmanned aircraft onto private property.[v] The Report also noted that the invasion of privacy statue, Iowa Code § 709.21, could be applied to unmanned aircraft if the invasion of privacy is sexually motivated.[vi] However, the legislature did not specifically amend these statutes to include references to unmanned vehicles.

South Dakota

In 2017, South Dakota enacted SB-80 which adopted the FAA drone operation requirements[vii] and provided criminal penalties for drone-related misconduct. After SB-80:

  • Operating a drone over the grounds of a prison, jail, etc. without authorization is a Class 1 misdemeanor.[viii]
  • Delivering contraband or controlled substances to prisons or other correctional facilities using a drone is an additional Class 6 felony (on top of the underlying offense).[ix]
  • Using to a drone to conduct non-consensual eavesdropping, surveillance, photography, and landings on the lands or waters of another resident is a Class 1 misdemeanor.[x]


Nebraska does not have any state UAS regulations. A bill was introduced in January 2016 to amend state privacy statutes and provide a legal remedy for intrusions by unmanned aircraft, but the bill is indefinitely postponed as of April 20, 2016.[xi]

Local Municipal Regulations

In addition to States, cities are also free to pass local ordinances regulating UAS operations. Currently, Sioux City does not have any additional UAS ordinances. The South Sioux City council introduced a drone ordinance that would have incorporated many of the FAA operating rules including: limiting flights to under 400 feet, requiring operators to maintain eyesight, and prohibiting operation near airports and utility facilities.[xii] The proposed ordinance would carry a $500 fine for violations, but the ordinance has currently not become law.[xiii]

Update: On May 9, 2018, ten state, local, and tribal governing bodies were selected for a three-year initiative under the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program.  This initiative (the nearest is Kansas and North Dakota Departments of Transportation) will be for everything from an Alaska study of soils for pipeline operators to controlling mosquitoes in Florida.  Some are predicting that up to 70,000 jobs will be created in the three years after drones are integrated into the U.S. airspace.  – Source:  Christian Science Monitor Weekly June 4, 2018 at Page 7.

Bryan Shusterman is a 3rd year law student at the University of Iowa College of Law. Bryan is an Articles Editor for the Journal of Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems and was a participant in the Jessup International Law Moot Court competition. This blog post is meant for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide legal advice in any particular circumstance or factual situation.  You should consult with an attorney prior to taking any action regarding the information contained herein.  If you have questions concerning this post, please contact bryan.shusterman@heidmanlaw.com or Daniel.Dykstra@heidmanlaw.com.

[i] Douglas Shinkle, Current Unmanned Aircraft State Law Landscape, Nat’l Conf. St. Legis. (Feb. 1, 2018), http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/current-unmanned-aircraft-state-law-landscape.aspx#6.

[ii] Skysign International, Inc. v. City and County of Honolulu, 276 F.3d 1109, 1115 (9th Cir. 2002).

[iii] Iowa Code Ann. § 808.15 (West).

[iv] Iowa Code Ann. § 321.492B (West).

[v] Iowa Dep’t of Pub. Safety, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Legislative Report, 1st Sess., at 10 (Dec. 2014).

[vi] Id.

[vii] S.D. Codified Laws § 50-15-2

[viii] S.D. Codified Laws § 50-15-3

[ix] S.D. Codified Laws § 50-15-4

[x] S.D. Codified Laws § 22-21-1

[xi] LB720 - Change certain invasion of privacy provisions to include unmanned aircraft, Neb. Legislature, https://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/view_bill.php?DocumentID=28231 (last visited May 30, 2018).

[xii] Ian Richardson, South Sioux City introduces drone regulations, Sioux City Journal (Sep. 17, 2017), http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/south-sioux-city-introduces-drone-regulations/article_37b8e377-4d76-57f5-a9ae-30db80aca0c6.html (last visited May 30, 2018).

[xiii] Id.

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