A court has ruled that federal drone laws trump local drone regulations in instances where the two are in conflict, setting a new and very important precedent for commercial and recreational drone pilots alike. The ruling was passed down by US District Judge William G. Young during a legal case involving the city of Newton, Massachusetts, and its drone regulations that are even more restrictive than the FAA's rules.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit was brought by Newton resident Michael Singer, who challenged four Newton provisions including a requirement to get permission before flying a drone over private property. The city had argued that the FAA allows for the local co-regulation of civilian drones, but Judge Young ruled otherwise, in part because the local regulations were sometimes in direct conflict with the FAA's.

For instance, whereas the FAA allows small drones to be operated below 400ft, the city of Newton's provisions banned the operation of drones below that altitude if they were over private property. This left pilots only one legal option: get permission from each property owner over whose property the drone would pass. Otherwise you'd either be violating Newton's laws or the FAA's regulations.

Referring to this particular law, Judge Young stated, "This thwarts not only the FAA’s objectives, but also those of Congress for the FAA to integrate drones into the national airspace."

Newton drone provisions that weren't challenged by the lawsuit have been left in place, and the city has indicated that it may appeal the ruling.