Back to the Jan-Feb 2019 issue

Can Cities Regulate the Use of Drones?


Q: We are noticing a lot more drone activity in our city, and we sometimes get questions and complaints about drones. As a city, do we have the authority to regulate drones?

LMC: City ordinances attempting to regulate drones are preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Generally, prohibitions or restrictions on flight paths, required equipment, or knowledge tests for drone operators would likely not be within the purview of local government regulation. However, there are privacy concerns with drones—such as people flying drones near homes to look inside. Cities do have authority to regulate that. For example, an invasion of privacy ordinance could likely be applied to an individual using a drone for peeping purposes.

The FAA has stated that its main purpose is to safely incorporate drones into the national airspace, but this does not include how drones are used or what tools (for example, a camera) may be attached to a drone. Cities could look to zoning to limit certain drone activity. Instead of having a “drone-free zone,” which would be an airspace restriction, cities could use their zoning authority to prohibit commercial drone operators from basing operations in residential areas. To learn more about city use and regulation of drones, see the LMC information memo at

Answered by Research Assistant Emmanuel Emukah:

Labor Relations

Q: What should I do if an employee requests information about canceling his or her union dues now that the Supreme Court has decided that fair share fees are not constitutional?

LMC: The best practice is to first direct the employee back to the union. If the employee has tried that and is not satisfied with the response, tell the employee to contact the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services at (651) 649-5421. As a general rule, the city does not want to be in the position of interfering in the relationship between the exclusive representative (the union) and the employee because this could be construed as an unfair labor practice. If the employee insists that the city discontinue union dues deduction, and the city cannot get confirmation from the union to discontinue the dues deduction, the city should contact its city attorney and the League of Minnesota Cities for further guidance. The Supreme Court decision has left many unanswered questions, and cities should tread carefully and seek legal advice as this area of the law plays out in the courts. For more information about union issues, see Chapter 6 of the League’s HR Reference Manual at

Answered by Human Resources Director Laura Kushner:


Q: Can I rely on a certificate of insurance as proof that the city has been added as an additional insured to a contractor’s insurance policy?

LMC: Whenever the city hires a contractor, it should require the contractor to have commercial general liability insurance and add the city as an “additional insured.” As an additional insured, the city has certain rights to access the contractor’s insurance if the city is sued. The city should request a certificate of insurance (COI) from the contractor as evidence of the contractor’s insurance. The COI should indicate if the contractor’s insurance has been endorsed to add the city as an additional insured. A COI, however, does not create a contract. Even if the COI shows the city has been added as an additional insured, that is not a guarantee that the contractor’s insurance company has actually endorsed the contractor’s insurance policy. Most cities rely on the COI as proof that the city has been added as an additional insured. However, the best practice is to request from the contractor a copy of the actual endorsement. An endorsement is typically one or two pages and shows proof that the contractor’s insurance policy has been changed to add the city as an additional insured.

Answered by Risk Management Attorney Chris Smith: