Since the dawn of time, mankind has been fascinated by the possibility of flight. You could say this desire has been etched into our very beings… so much so that ancient Greeks immortalized it in myth, in the story of Daedalus and Icarus.

From Leonardo da Vinci’s early helicopter designs in the 15th century, to the first hot air balloons in the 18th, to the gliders of the 19th, step by step, human beings made great strides in air innovation. And then of course came the Wright brothers’ airplanes in the early 20th century.

Now, we are reaching a new age in air innovation: the age of drones.

And it brings incredible opportunities in nearly every sector imaginable:

  • In healthcare, drones are being used transport life-saving medicine to remote and rural areas which otherwise would be unreachable.
  • In agriculture, farmers are using drones to inventory their crops and, map farmland, and to spray pesticides and fertilizer.
  • In retail delivery, drones can get packages to your door in 30 minutes or less.

The list goes on. From engineering, to firefighting, to disaster relief, and maybe even passenger transport someday, this technology promises to unleash truly unlimited opportunities.

Drones are cheap, efficient, and environmentally friendly… promising huge economic benefits, as well.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates that drone integration in the U.S. will create about 100,000 jobs with a net result of $82 billion in the economy by 2025.

And last year, the FAA projected that the number of commercial drones will quadruple over the next five years.

We have reached a pivotal moment.

The question is – how can we best seize it?

How we can we integrate drones – which fly at a much lower altitude than planes – into an outdated model in our national airspace? And how can we do so in a way that does not stifle, but rather empowers innovation?

It is time to once again update the rules of the sky.

That is why I introduced the Drone Integration and Zoning Act, or DIZA, this week.

This bill establishes a regulatory framework for drones based on the principles of local governance and cooperative federalism – giving shared responsibility to both the federal government and states, with distinct roles for them each.

And it does so in four major ways:

First, DIZA balances drone governance between the federal and state governments by designating airspace for each. For airspace below 200 feet, state and local governments are responsible for managing drones by issuing time, place, and manner restrictions. And for airspace above 200 feet, the FAA is responsible for managing uniform drone rules across all 50 states.

Second, DIZA protects the zoning authority for state, local, and tribal authorities to designate commercial drone take-off and landing zones, similar to the authority that state and local governments currently possess for determining the location of airports.

Third, DIZA gives state and local governments an equal seat at the table with the federal government to develop the Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system.

This means the federal government must collaborate with state and local governments – not only for coordinating roles and responsibilities, but also to create a process for sharing interoperable data between governments so that drone operators can have a complete picture of the sky.

And finally, DIZA clarifies that a commercial drone delivery company should not be considered an “airline,” as currently considered by the FAA. Receiving an airline certification is not only an expensive process that could chill innovation and market competition, but would also likely prevent state and local governments from responsibly managing commercial drone traffic at low altitudes.

As we reach this moment in history, entrepreneurs across the country stand ready to unleash tremendous opportunity through commercial drones. And we should allow them to do so in the best way possible.

That path will not be found in centralizing power in Washington… but by holding fast to our founding principles.

It will be found in preserving the space and freedom for innovation… and empowering the ordinary, determined, and creative Americans who work so hard to help our nation flourish.

If we do, there’s no telling what new heights we will achieve.