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Federal Judge Rules on City Drone Ordinance

September 26, 2017

A federal judge in Massachusetts made the first U.S. ruling addressing state and local drone regulations. The judge ruled that the City of Newton did not have the authority to impose drone laws.

Last December, Officials from Newton passed a law that banned unmanned aircraft flights below 400 feet, flights over private and public property without the landowner's permission, and required a $10 local registration of drones. Pilots would also be fined $50 for violating the ordinance. 

The case was brought by Michael Singer, a physician and FAA-certified drone pilot. Singer represented himself with support from Jeff Ellis, an Aviation Partner at Clyde & Co.

“With the technology having just emerged into the mainstream it’s vital that the federal government be allowed to create a uniform regulatory framework, which all drone operators can follow,” Ellis said. “That approach promotes both safety and efficiency and doesn’t preclude local authorities from enforcing local laws prohibiting violations of privacy or criminal misuse.”

While the decision only directly impacts Newton, it may have an effect on how other state and local governments improse drone laws in the future. 


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