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Drone rules need to be tighter: CA senator

States should take action to regulate drones when federal rules fail to address their concerns, one California lawmaker said Tuesday.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration opened its consumer drone registry to keep track of the devices amid some potentially hazardous flights. While the agency has previously set other guidelines and is crafting preliminary rules for commercial use, its regulations remain unclear, contended Ted Gaines, a Republican state senator in California.

"The action that they are taking, I don't think fully addresses the issue," Gaines, who has attempted to push multiple drone bills through the California Legislature, said on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

A multirotor quadcopter drone used for aerial photography flies near a wind turbine.
Getty Images
A multirotor quadcopter drone used for aerial photography flies near a wind turbine.

The FAA is the primary regulator of drones, but more state and local governments have recently considered or passed laws on drone flight. Many lawmakers have cited a lack of clarity in federal rules and what power, exactly, state governments have in the process.

Gaines highlighted the need to address drones flying near wildfires in California. He said the presence of other aircraft holds back the firefighting effort and threatens lives.

The FAA has claimed authority over airspace down to the ground, and last week issued a fact sheet on when local laws are appropriate. The agency said local governments could set laws related to police obtaining warrants to use a drone, banning voyeurism or barring the attachment of firearms or other weapons.

They asked lawmakers to consult with the FAA before making any law regarding flight altitudes and paths. The agency added that the Department of Transportation would evaluate local and state laws "on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they don't conflict with the FAA's authority."

Amazon, among others, has pushed for a quicker resolution on commercial use, and has put its weight behind uniform federal regulations. In a previous statement, the tech giant contended that "states and localities must not be allowed to regulate small drones that the FAA has authorized."