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Sharing the Sky: Regulating Unmanned Aircraft in American Airspace Via Cooperative Federalism

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Abstract: The federal government s approach to regulating the new American airspace has restricted rather than promoted unmanned aircraft operations. The changing airspace, however, should be embraced, but that can only be accomplished if the federal government is willing to pragmatically modernize its approach to aviation regulation. To definitively embrace the changing airspace, the federal government must resign its exclusive sovereignty of the NAS. Rather than expanding congressional and executive agency authority, the opposite should happen. Utilizing a Cooperative Federalism system--similar to the federal government s approach to environmental regulation--the federal government through legislative action would resign its exclusive sovereignty over national airspace regulation. This resignation would allow the FAA to reclassify the NAS to include a state controlled and regulated Airspace Class designated for civilian unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations--specifically recreational UAS operations.

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