Judge shoots down Newton drone ban

A federal judge ruled today that Newton went too far in banning drones from flying over the city without the prior permission of landowners whose property the drones might pass over.

US District Court Judge William Young's ruling is a victory for Michael Singer, a local doctor and drone aficionado who'd filed the suit earlier this year. In his ruling, Young wrote:

Newton’s choice to restrict any drone use below [400 feet] thus works to eliminate any drone use in the confines of the city, absent prior permission. This thwarts not only the FAA’s objectives, but also those of Congress for the FAA to integrate drones into the national airspace. Although Congress and the FAA may have contemplated co-regulation of drones to a certain extent, ... this hardly permits an interpretation that essentially constitutes a wholesale ban on drone use in Newton.

The Newton City Council said the ordinance was an attempt to protect residents' privacy.


Free tagging: 

PDF icon Complete drone ruling62.32 KB


Air Rights

What's the law regarding air rights? How low before you're in violation of someone's property rights?

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If you live within 5 miles of

If you live within 5 miles of Logan Airport you are supposed to let Traffic Control know before using it. I am 100 percent sure this is not happening right now, I would be curious to see how that moves forward as it includes many communities. Personally living in one of them I would not mind if the FAA just outright outlawed non commercial drones within that 5 miles bubble.


Some interesting readings:

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Implemented in software

By on

DJI drones, the most popular consumer drones, won't take off or fly in prohibited areas.

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That would be over the

That would be over the airport itself, but in a 5 mile bubble you can fly as long as you report. Does the software have the ability to coordinate that? I ask because I don't know... it would be a cool coordination effort if it did.

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Haven't tried it, but you can

By on

Haven't tried it, but you can explicitly unlock the drone for flying in a no fly zone through the app. It would clearly be intentional (otherwise, they drone says "can't take off"). Unlock lasts only a couple days. Not perfect, but filters out the numbskulls and probably tracks the rest.

DJI tightly controls their drones, probably to avoid backlash or some horrible bad-for-business event.

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Of course

"Of course, nothing prevents Newton from re-drafting the Ordinance to avoid conflict preemption."

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Newton residents

By on

will have to have their slingshots at the ready.

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slingshots are actually

By on

slingshots are actually illegal in Massachusetts too!

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