Local Government Policy and Planning for Unmanned Aerial Systems

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Local Government Policy and Planning for Unmanned Aerial Systems


This research identifies key state and local government stakeholders in California for drone policy creation and implementation, and describes their perceptions and understanding of drone policy. The investigation assessed stakeholders’ positions, interests, and influence on issues, with the goal of providing potential policy input to achieve successful drone integration in urban environments and within the national airspace of the United States. The research examined regulatory priorities through the use of a two-tiered Stakeholder Analysis Process. The first tier consisted of a detailed survey sent out to over 450 local agencies and jurisdictions in California. The second tier consisted of an in-person focus group to discuss survey results as well as to gain deeper insights into local policymakers’ current concerns. Results from the two tiers of analysis, as well as recommendations, are provided here.



Dr. Tyler Spence is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aviation and Technology in the College of Engineering at San José State University. Prior to joining SJSU, he was a Postdoctoral Policy Fellow for the Purdue Policy Research Institute (PPRI). With his background in aviation, both as a researcher and certified flight instructor, he has experienced many of the problems associated with aviation infrastructure, airports’ and airlines’ safety systems, and the growth of UAS activities in the national airspace. He also brings policy expertise, having completed the social policy graduate certificate in the Department of Political Science and having conducting research at the intersection of aviation and public policy. Dr. Spence collaborated on the development of the Drone Regulatory Research Initiative at PPRI and was an integral part of the teams in the Office of Aviation Negotiations and the Office of Transportation Policy when he worked at the U.S. Department of State in the Transportation Affairs Bureau. Dr. Spence was acting co-chair for the bilateral discussions on an Open Skies agreement. He also researched the impact of aviation on the Mexican and U.S. economies and created a presentation for the Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Aviation and International Affairs comparing the historical trends in cargo and passengers between the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and China. Dr. Spence is also a FAA certified single engine instrument rated flight instructor and also holds a multi-engine commercial certificate and an advanced ground instructor certificate. Dr. Spence holds a PhD in Aviation from Purdue University.


Dr. Favaro is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aviation and Technology in the College of Engineering at San José State University. Prior to joining SJSU, she earned a PhD and MS in Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MS and BS in Space Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, Italy. Dr. Favaro’s research interests lie in the broad field of system safety and risk analysis, with an emphasis on system engineering concepts and the safe integration and embedding of new technologies and the consistent update of regulations and certification practices. In 2016, she funded the RiSA2S lab, which deals with Risk and Safety Assessment of Autonomous Systems such as unmanned aircraft systems and self-driving cars. In 2017 she became an MTI research associate and started collaborating as an expert in the realm of autonomous vehicles. Her interests are currently focused on the safe integration of autonomous systems within U.S. public roads as well as national airspace. She particularly focuses on bridging the gap between the technological world and the current regulatory panorama. Dr. Favaro has authored several journal publications and conference proceedings on a variety of topics, ranging from UAS mishaps to risk assessment and regulatory compliance for nuclear power plants. Dr. Favaro serves on the Board of Directors of the Aero Club of Northern California and acts as Secretary for CAAPSO (Community and Airport Partnership for Safe Operations), an aviation interest group that safeguards safe and efficient operations at the local airport of Reid-Hillview, San José. She is an FAA certified Advanced Ground Instructor, a certified Remote Pilot for UAS commercial operations, and a solo-endorsed pilot.


Ms. Yeung’s research interests focus on sustainable air transportation planning and policy. In particular, she wrote her master’s report on how to implement green roofs at San Francisco International Airport while not increasing the threat of bird strikes. She holds a BS degree in Aviation concentrated in aviation management and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning, both from San José State University.

April 2020
Unmanned aircraft systems
Local government agencies
Policy analysis



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