Airspace: What does the FAA control?

I recently read an article by in which they debunked some myths regarding the FAA that are very key to understand if you are looking to be a part of the UAV industry, and furthermore to advocate for commercial applications.

The following is an excerpt from a SUAS News article:

“The FAA doesn’t control airspace below 400 feet.”

Fact: The FAA controls all airspace from the ground up. This myth is based on confusion with the rules for operating model aircraft, which are quite different from those involving any form of commercial flying operations.

Really, from the ground up?  This confusion has nothing to do with model aircraft rules.  This confusion, on the part of the FAA, has everything to do with Supreme Court Justice Douglas’s writing of the majority opinion in United States v. Causby, which states in part:

We have said that the airspace is a public highway.  Yet it is obvious that if the landowner is to have full enjoyment of the land, he must have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere.  The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as the can occupy or use in connection with the land.”

While the “immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere” were not defined by Douglas, in Smith v. New England Aircraft Company, the Massachusetts Supreme Court set the boundary somewhere between one hundred feet and five hundred feet.
So the United States Supreme Court does not agree that the FAA controls all airspace from the ground up.  While no one is arguing that the FAA should not regulate safety from the ground up, the FAA has no authority to withhold use of this airspace from the landowner, be it for recreational or commercial operations.
So for all the aspiring aerial cinematographers out there, this doesn’t mean you should start disregarding the FAA and local law enforcement agencies. This does, however, provide you with important information on your rights that you should carry with you along with all the safety information you have regarding your own personal aircraft.

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