Ownership and control of airspace has long been a controversial, confusing, and difficult area of study within aviation law. Throughout the twentieth century, there was copious debate surrounding the ..
Ownership and control of airspace has long been a controversial, confusing, and difficult area of study within aviation law. Throughout the twentieth century, there was copious debate surrounding the rights of property owners and the authority of aviation regulatory agencies to govern airspace. The invention of the airplane and a burgeoning concern about aerial trespass vigorously fueled that debate. In the contemporary context, airspace ownership questions center primarily on debates over low-altitude airspace and subsequent legal remedies available for improper use, illegal entrance, or unwanted occupation of that airspace. This review examines the history of airspace ownership controversies in the United States (U.S.) through an analysis of legal cases, scholarly debate, academic journal articles, and primary sources. The purpose of this paper is to assist aviation scholarly and industry personnel in forming a better understanding of the historic and contemporary debates that have surrounded the question of airspace rights. It is a particularly meaningful time to review this area of aviation legal history because the advent of novel aviation technologies—namely, drones, urban air mobility (UAM), and advanced air mobility (AAM) air taxis—is creating an industry ripe for new airspace ownership and control controversies in the coming decades.