Northampton, MA

RESOLUTION  ON DRONE AIRCRAFT I. NAVIGABLE  AIRSPACE AND DRONE AIRCRAFT WHEREAS, the former City Councilor and Mayor of Northampton, Calvin Coolidge, as President of the  United States, signed into law the Air Commerce Act of 1926 1

WHEREAS, this act declared that the airspace above the m inimum safe altitudes of flight, generally  understood to be  about  500 feet or more above the surface , establishing the national airspac e system  in the United States; and 2

WHEREAS,  aircraf t, includ ing drone aircraft ,  is “navigable airspace” ; and 3 , have the “ public  right of transit” through navigable  airspace 4

WHEREAS, navigable airspac e i s preempted by federal laws ; and 5

WHEREAS, Congress and the FAA  now  appear to be  expanding navigable airspace down to the ground  in order to accommodate low – flying  drone aircraft and therefore not  generally  subject to state and local control; and 6

WHEREAS,  such  an expansion of navigable a irspace  threatens long – standing property rights,  expectations of privacy, and state and  local sovereignty; and ; and 7

WHEREAS,  such  an  expansion of navigable airspace  could  give the FAA  unprecedented authority to  restrict any landowner activit y that could potentially  interfere with low – flying drone aircraft 8

WHEREAS,  such  an expansion of naviga ble airspace is contrary to the findings of the landmark 1946  Supreme Court case,  United States v. Causby , which affirmed that  the landowner “must have exclusive  control over the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere”  and that “the  landowner owns  at least  as mu ch of the airspace as they can occupy or use in connection with the land” ; and 9

WHEREAS,  such  an expansion of navigable airspace is contrary to the aviation statutes in Title 49 of  the United States Code ; and 10 II.  SURVEILLANCE AND WEAPONIZED DRONE AIRCRAFT , which have been in force, largely un changed, since President Coolidge first  signed them into law in 1926; and

WHEREAS, drone aircraft are poised to gain unprecedented access to private property at any altitude  and for any purpose, including but not limited to purposes of advertising, news reporting, environmental  monitoring, package delivery, recreation, and private investigations; and

WHEREAS, police departments  in the United States  have begun  using drone  aircraft in the  absen ce of  clear guidance from lawmakers; and

WHEREAS,  some  drone aircraf t being marketed  to law enforcement agencies  are designed to carry  weapons  including  tear gas,  rubber buckshot , and firearms 11

WHEREAS, the rapid  development  of drone  aircraft  technology, driven largely by manufacturers  producing drone aircraft for military  u se, poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of  the American people, including the residents of Northampton; and and  the introduction of such technology send s a chilling message  to the  American people ; and

WHEREAS, the federal use of weaponized drone aircraft overseas is a poor precedent for  their domestic  use, in that  the e xtrajudicial use of drones has turned public opinion against the U.S.  g overnment in  Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan; and

WHERE AS drone aircraft strikes have killed more non – targeted people than those targeted, including  men, women, and children,  some known by name and others unidentified; 12

BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Northampton call s on the U.S. government to immediately end its  practice of extrajudicial killing by armed drone aircraft ; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City of  Northampton affirms that , within the city limits,  the  navigable airspace  for drone aircraft s hall not be expanded below the long – established airspace  for  manned aircraft; and

BE IT  FURTHER  RESOLVED ,  that  th e City of Nor thampton  affirms that within the city limits,  landowners  subject to state  laws and local ordinances have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of  the airspace and that no drone aircraft  shall have the “public right of transit” through this  private  property ; and

BE IT FURTH ER RESOLVED, that the City of Northampton calls on the United States Congress, the  Federal Aviation Administration,  and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to  respect legal precedent and constitutional guarantees of privacy, property  rights, and local sovereignty in  all matters pertaining to drone aircraft and navigable airspace.

1 Air Commerce Act of 1926 (44 Stat. 568), May 20, 1926 2 Griggs v. Allegheny  County, 369 U.S. 84 (1962) ;  California v. Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207 (1986) ;  Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445  (1989) ;  Argent v. United States, 124 F. 3d 1277 (1997) 3 The term “drone aircraft” in this resolution includes the classes of aerial vehicles defined by the FAA as “unmanned  aircraft”, “small unmanned aircraft”, “model aircraft”, and “remotely piloted aircraft”. 4 United States Code, Title 49, § 40103 (a) (2).  The “public right of transit” through navigable airspace applies to aircraft  that are being ope rated by U.S. citizens in accordance with FAA safety regulations. Under reciprocal agreements with  other nations, foreign aircraft may also be navigated through U.S. airspace. 5 For example, see  MacPherson, R., “Letter to Mr. Don Marcostica, Executive Di rector Colorado Office of Economic  Development and International Trade,” Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations at the Federal Aviation Administration,  July 9, 2010. 6 The  FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 20 12, Public Law 112 – 95, Sec. 332 , allows gove rnment public safety agencies  to operate small unmanned aircraft at altitudes of “ less than 400 feet above the ground ” without any mention of privacy  or property. This language implies that the minimum safe altitude for these new “aircraft” is at ground l evel and  therefore all airspace is navigable and subject to the “public right of transit”. Under the provisions of PL 112 – 95,  commercial unmanned aircraft could soon be allowed to operate with similar autonomy. 7 Les Dorr, Media Specialist, Federal Aviat ion Administration, “…any altitudes mandated in the [Federal Aviation  Regulations] are conside red navigable airspace”, email communication with Paul Voss , July 11 , 2012. 8 United States Code, Title 49, § 40103 (b) (2) (A – D) 9 United States v. Causby , 328 U.S. 256 (1946) 10 United States Code, Title 49, § 4010 2 (a) (32) 11 “VANGUARD SHADOWHAWK.” Tactical Life . N.p., 1 Feb. 2012. Web. 18 June 2013. 12 Kilcullen, David, and Andrew McDonald Exum. “Death From Above, Outrage Down Below.” New York Times. New Yor k  Times, 16 May 2009. Web.


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