Balancing the Skies: South Dakota’s New Drone Legislation

Safeguarding Privacy and Safety in the Air

In the expansive skies above South Dakota, drones have become a familiar sight, buzzing with the potential for innovation and the shadow of misuse. Amidst this aerial evolution, Republican Senator David Johnson has stepped forward as the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 169, a legislative proposal aimed at navigating the complex airspace of drone regulation while respecting federal authority and safeguarding citizen rights, according to Keloland.

Federal vs. State Jurisdiction

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) holds the reins over the nation's airspace, including the buzzing corridors navigated by drones. However, the FAA's purview extends primarily to operational safety, leaving a gap in the landscape when it comes to privacy and property rights.

Senator Johnson's Senate Bill 169 seeks to fill this void, empowering the state to lay down the law on criminal misuse of drones without stepping on federal toes.

“The state can't regulate air space for drones but it can ensure that drones are operated safely and are not being used for criminal activity,” Johnson asserts, underlining the bill's dual aim to protect South Dakotans from criminal drone activity while ensuring the rights of drone operators remain intact.

Legislative Leap Forward

The bill, which sailed through the Senate Transportation Committee with a 6-1 vote, is Johnson's brainchild, developed in collaboration with figures like Republican Senator Red Dawn Foster and the . It's a testament to the growing recognition of drones' potential and the need for regulatory frameworks that encourage innovation while protecting public safety and privacy.

Johnson highlights the bill's balanced approach: “This legislation today protects South Dakota citizens from the criminal use of drones, but just as equally protects drone operators and drone pilots and drone manufacturers rights to operate aircraft legally over South Dakota.”

Support and Scrutiny

Support for the bill comes from various quarters, including the insurance industry and un-crewed vehicle associations, signaling broad consensus on the importance of safe and regulated drone operation. Meanwhile, the bill's provisions have sparked discussion, particularly around local government autonomy in regulating drone flights within their jurisdictions.

Johnson clarifies that while the FAA's regulations on airspace are supreme, the bill ensures local governments cannot impose conflicting rules, maintaining a uniform regulatory environment across the state.

A Fine Balance

Among the bill's specific stipulations is the prohibition of reckless or invasive drone use, classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. This clause aims to deter voyeurism, harassment, or any behavior that endangers people or property, striking a balance between innovation and individual rights.

Navigating the Drone Future

Senate Bill 169 stands as a landmark effort to chart a course through the complex skies of drone regulation. By delineating the boundaries of state and federal jurisdiction and emphasizing the safe, respectful use of , South Dakota positions itself at the forefront of addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by the rise of drones.

As the bill moves through the legislative process, it embodies a proactive approach to ensuring that the skies remain a domain of innovation, safeguarded against misuse, and respectful of privacy and safety.

The featured image is for illustration purposes only.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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