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Let's pretend for a moment that, right now, everybody on Earth was given the ability of flight. What new legislation would have to be passed to regulate this ability?

Physical restrictions on the ability of flight:

  • Maximum altitude is based on existing human limits (no more than 26,000 feet / 8,000 meters)
  • Maximum air time is around 30 minutes
  • Maximum speed is around 30 mph / 48 kmh
  • Maximum distance is around 15 miles
  • Roughly the same amount of physical exertion as running at a brisk pace
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Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Serban Tanasa Mar 23 at 22:11
    
You might as well say it: Paramotor. And the current rules (generally) are spelled out in Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR), Part 103. The current rules are probably a good guess at what rules would evolve into, but perhaps with more tracking and guidance requirements. – Dale Mar 24 at 13:22
    
don't forget the universal law of gravity! – stackErr Mar 24 at 20:57
    
The human body can survive higher altitudes with proper training. – moonman239 Mar 26 at 0:57
up vote 21 down vote accepted

Laws, rules and regulations vary country by country according to the needs of the people or whims of the rulers. Hence no hard and fast legislation can be mentioned to have been imposed by all the countries. However, a general sketch would be something like this:

  • In several Western countries, it would be illegal to fly above the airspace of other people's homes. I'm mentioning Western countries for this only because individual rights (in general, with several exceptions) are included in legislation in Western countries.

  • Military installments would be fitted with computer-controlled guns to shoot down any and all personnel flight in their airspace without a digital identity.

  • It would be illegal in almost all countries to fly with a weapon. Flying with handguns would result in least punishment while caught flying with a sniper rifle might end up with maximum punishment.

  • Flying within a radius of 1 km around airports would be a crime and punished heavily.

  • There might be a speed regulation for intra-city flights (in order to minimize in-flight accidents).

  • Only paramedics, firemen and policemen would be allowed to fly above certain roads and commute routes.

  • It would be illegal to fly within a building in most government offices and military bases.

Edit To Add Explanation On Point 2

It appears that the idea of military bases having automated guns has led to some controversy here. First, I should mention that this setup (where guns are programmed to immediately shoot any intruder) would/can be implemented if a few preliminary actions are taken.

  1. Military bases are located outside the reach of human flight distance from all cities. That is, all military bases are located more than 15 miles from all cities. It is beyond the reach of all curious children. If you are on a road trip and you allow your children to take flight from an unknown location to an unknown destination, you are clearly a careless parent.

  2. Warnings are issued to any unknown approaching flying person to stop and land. If the person repetitively ignores these warnings, they would be shot.

  3. Lethal force is not used. Instead, rubber bullets are used to incapacitate the intruder and force him/her to land.

The last thing about it is that collective interest is usually more important than individual interest. If you use emotional argument of "No, you can't program your guns to shoot at my kids", you are neglecting that people already have the right to shoot trespassers in their properties. Why should the military not have this right? Furthermore, you are also shielding terrorists, enemy spies/assassins and criminals from being shot. Not shooting at unknown intruders and building passive defenses might save your child's life, but it will result in the loss of 30 or more soldiers.

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Third bullet point (no pun intended): In US, you would have 2ndAmend Republican objections on this. – OldBunny2800 Mar 23 at 20:12
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@ChrisHayes Because it's much harder to cover a hemisphere of infiltration than it is to control a perimeter of infiltration. – The Anathema Mar 23 at 20:55
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@TheAnathema you're forgetting that if people can fly then kids can fly. No, you can't program your guns to shoot at my kids. This is why you have to have a fence at your perimeter and not just a painted border with sternly worded signs. Sorry, but it's time you invested in dome construction. – CandiedOrange Mar 23 at 21:16
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@CandiedOrange I didn't say that flight would necessarily change anything. I simply provided a reason as to why it might, because obviously it adds a new dimension to approach. Also, children can be used to infiltrate or attack military personnel. This already happens today. Whether or not lethal force is authorized upon infiltration or attack is well within the government or military's means to enforce, regardless of your personal feelings about the matter - not much you could do about it. – The Anathema Mar 23 at 21:45
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@TheAnathema I am referring to the answer we're commenting on, not your statement. My original question also wasn't directed at you. The entire point is that this answer is desperately lacking in reasoning or justification, no matter how many people come into the comments to defend it. There must be some standard that answers actually attempt to explain where they're getting their ideas from. – Chris Hayes Mar 23 at 23:44

Disabled people

Other answers mentioned restrictions on flying indoors and in government buildings but I don't think that's going to fly in almost any western country.

Most western countries have pretty strong regulations on discrimination against disabled people. Suddenly being able to fly is going to be a massive boon for a big chunk of the disabled population.

Elderly people without the strength to walk might not be able to fly far or fast but they can probably float enough to grant them a hell of a lot of extra mobility even if it's only for a few minutes at a time.

If flying inside a government building was banned the state would immediately (rightly) get slapped with dozens of discrimination lawsuits.

They could change the rules allowing only disabled people to fly but if it's an ability everyone has I'm imagining that would be unlikely. Far more likely they'll simply introduce height and/or speed limits for flight inside buildings.

Toddlers

Toddlers are going to be in mortal peril in this world since they can wander hundreds of meters up before falling. There's probably going to be a lot of new laws effectively requiring that all children under a certain age be kept on leashes if the parents want to avoid negligence charges.

Building regulations

It's likely that people are going to start building far more highrise properties where the main mode of entry is simply flying up to the side of the building and entering(perhaps with one slow heavy goods evelvator).

After some less-fit people fall to their deaths when trying to enter a door with no ledge there's going to be a lot of new rules added requiring that buildings have ledges so many meters apart and nets or platforms bellow any primary entrances to catch people who fall while trying to open doors.

Employee safety regulations

A lot of high-altitude jobs are going to suddenly become dramatically safer. If you fall off while doing this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDa6nM0o5JU

It's suddenly not a big deal. Many OSHA rules about safety lines can be quickly repealed but with the time limits on flight there's also going to have to be new safety laws making it clear that employers cannot require employees to hover more than a few feet up for more than a very short period of time.

Wildlife

Suddenly a lot more wildlife will be getting disturbed by humans. Birds nests up in high trees are no longer an arduous climb away, they're a few seconds flight. Hunting will also be easier when humans can suddenly drop nets from the air. This is likely to lead to some stricter wildlife protection rules related to disturbing wild animals from the air.

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but I don't think that's going to fly Pun intended? – Dan Henderson Mar 23 at 21:23
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@DanHenderson .... maybe just a little. – Murphy Mar 24 at 11:26
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let's not forget parachute / skydiving entertainments would feel less thrilling and many companies based on those leisures would go bankrupt ... – Strannch May 20 at 9:21

So, there are already laws in place that would likely be applicable, plus some new ones we are going to need.

Humans would most likely be restricted to Class G and Class E (lower-tier) Airspace...This is, essentially, all airspace below 18,000 feet that is not close to an airport or otherwise restricted airspace. This is the areas in which things are permitted to fly without regulation by the FAA (this may be changing in the future with regards to drones). This is where hot air balloons, hobbyist helicopters, and most civilian drones stay. It is possible that they may be restricted to MUCH lower in the name of safety.

As implied by the first point, humans would face No-Fly-Zone restrictions in certain places. Near airports, for sure...because getting hit by an airliner could not only kill the flier, but damage the aircraft enough to cause it to crash. Other places would include government facilities and military bases. there may be a special exception allowed for low-altitude human flight in some No-Fly-Zones, such as allowing flight in New York City, despite the presence of a very large airport-based chunk of restricted airspace. The exact altitude permissions would be determined based on numerous factors...but at the simplest, just keep people below the level of the tops of buildings.

We would need to step up the pace at which we figure out how 'high' private property extends. This is already being debated in some ways in regards to drones. In essence, they need to figure out how high humans would have to fly in order to not be trespassing on privately owned property. (An example of where this came up was a case where a homeowner shot down a drone that was hovering over his property...purportedly 'snooping' on his sunbathing daughters)

Once that was figured out, they'd need to work out new rules for posting No Trespassing signage. The current rules (with variation by state) mandate that signs be posted all along the perimeter of the property at eye level, and spaced no more than 500 feet apart. Once we have to consider people approaching from the sky, those rules will need to be revised.

Aerial Traffic Laws may need to be implemented on a city-level to prevent collisions. It's one thing when two people collide while walking at 3mph...it's quite another when they collide at 35mph. The exact specifics of these would need to be messed with to find a 'good solution,' but would be created on the same justification that ruled that pedestrians need to stay on the sidewalk or in crosswalks. These rules would be less important in suburban and rural areas where fliers are not dense enough to really have to worry about collision

Medical Insurance Laws may need some updating in order to properly manage assignation of fault in event of an aerial collision or in event of being struck by a dropped object.

Flight within structures may be restricted due to close quarters and the risks of a high-speed collision. Or, at least, businesses would be given permission to determine this for themselves.

Laws regarding carrying weapons while in flight may be addressed in some countries, but others may stick to their current rules regarding transport and usage of a weapon.

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Glider pilots are already generally restricted to staying below 10,000 feet AGL without supplemental oxygen. – Wingman4l7 Mar 24 at 7:05
    
I like the dropped objects detail. When accidentally dropping a hammer doesn't just risk smashing your toe, but also killing people! – ErikE Mar 24 at 22:32

It would quickly become illegal to not bury power lines.

Laws regarding drones would be forgotten as people simply pluck offending drones from the sky.

Civil aviation undergoes a huge transformation as people realize it's cool to thumb a ride at 10,000 feet. Cessna pooling becomes a thing. Soon laws crop up trying to stop it from being a thing. People get around the laws, claiming they're only going sky diving. Just in reverse.

Whole new kinds of ultra light aircraft are developed to exploit the fact that dropping people at altitude is no longer a death sentence. A few people die anyway. So laws are created to reflect the new realities of air safety. I start building something that looks suspiciously like a human cannon ball cannon in my backyard.

New laws regarding fraud are considered but rejected when someone starts selling hover boards that are just skateboards with foot straps and no wheels.

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The "Cessna pooling" thing doesn't seem very likely. Even at low speeds basically any plane is going to be way faster than 35 mph, and .... well you see the problem. Something similar would potentially arise but it would have to use helicopters, or lighter than air aircraft. Also given the propellers of most craft there will need to be laws about putting a protective barrier around propellers like they often do with drones. – Vakus Drake Mar 24 at 2:08
    
Well you have a point. With flaps extended stall speed is 48 miles per hour in a cessna. Our pedestrians can do 30. That leaves 18 to account for. And I'd account for it like this. You can say that's crazy. I'd say that's why there'd be a law. – CandiedOrange Mar 24 at 2:33
    
Yeah a lot of people would get seriously injured from that kind of sudden sudden shock, not to mention you probably couldn't even rig that to something as small as a cessna. There's also the fact that jet fuel's expensive. Also Getting a plane as close to stalling as you can doesn't sound remotely safe. – Vakus Drake Mar 25 at 12:46
    
@VakusDrake The point of knowing your plane's stall speed is so you can do exactly that. With the speed differential down you could do it with cessna and shock cord. Or you could just ask the pilot to do a few circles while you grab on to the line. People use this trick to deliver goods to the ground already. – CandiedOrange Mar 25 at 22:01
    
@VakusDrake found a youtube video of the trick. It's called the bucket drop. – CandiedOrange Mar 25 at 22:17

It depends what you mean by "maximum airtime" and "maximum speed". Is 30 minutes at 30 mph something that the average person can do, or is that something for top athletes? Today, some top athletes can run at maybe 13 miles per hour for 30 minutes. The average person doesn't get near that. The average person can't do a "brisk run" for 5 minutes.

If many people could fly at a mile per two minutes for a few minutes, in normal street clothing and perhaps with a little back pack, that would make commuting into London for example a lot easier. A huge part of the city is within 3 miles of a major train station. If I could fly 3 miles in 6 minutes, I could go from the nearest train station straight to work. If I couldn't but many physically fitter people could (maybe 1/3rd of all commuters), that would take a lot of pressure off public transport.

I'm not sure what to think about the proposed 8,000 meters maximum height. If I can fly 15 miles in 30 minutes, there is no way I could reach a height of 8,000 meters. I would assume that the laws of physics still apply and I can't fly upwards quicker than I can walk up the stairs. One horse power is defined as the power that you need to lift 75 kg up one meter in one second.

Another thing that needs clarification is the required area for takeoff and landing. How much clear space do I need to start or land safely?

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Good details on the differences in physical fitness causing differences in flight abilities and times! – ErikE Mar 24 at 22:33
    
On dropped objects: In some places they've needed to install high fences on pedestrian traffic over-pass bridges to curb the practice of throwing bricks at cars for fun. Now... – Graham Kemp Apr 17 at 0:31

The Talking Heads will launch a comeback tour, opening each performance with "And She was".

The Airborne Civil Liberties Union will successfully appeal to natural law and claim flight to be an inalienable human right. Widespread civil disobedience will make all attempts at legislation futile - except limits during hunting season, because of the NRA.

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If humans could fly - 99% of the time it would be illegal, only in "fly" zones, here's why:

  1. You could easily get to many places you cant now, so could illegally cross borders. AA gun galore.
  2. Mid flight collisions in cities would wreck havoc!
  3. Imagine if terrorists could fly - they could be able to hit so many more targets, no planes needed.
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That's too extreme, and breaks the presumption of innocence. Noone prohibits crawling "because it could be used to illegally cross the border", or running "because collision could wreck havoc", or wearing clothes "because terrorists could hide bombs under their clothes". – Roux Mar 25 at 13:20

Laws

In the US we would have the National Flight Legislations or NFL for short, the NFL would create flight laws for humans without violating the 11th Amendment in the original Bill of Rights: "The right of the people to fly shall not be infringed", so the work done by NFL would be to "regulate" Infringe the flight right, constituted by ten simple laws:

1. None is allowed to fly over buildings unless one has a justifiable reason.

2. One shall not fly within flight free zones defined by local laws

3. One shall not fly one mile away or less from airports

4. One flying a mile or less from a military building can be considered a threat and shot down

5. While flying, one shall not carry any kind of firearm or explosive material

6. One shall not fly under the influence of drugs that alter one's ability to fly

7. One can fly carrying objects which weight does not exceed five pounds

8. Objects carried during flight should be carried inside a sealed container and attached to one's body

9. The limit speed one can fly is twenty miles per hour

10. The maximum altitude one can fly is five thousand feet

The infringement of the laws above shall result in lawful penalty defined by the local laws

Just a few bad things...

Just imagine how many violent people we have right now, now add "wings" to those same violent people, it would be a total chaos, a lot of people could pass out and freefall to their death, terrorists would hit buildings just like birds with C4 strapped to them, airstrikes wouldn't be as effective against personnel, so the military would bomb places at night to cause maximum damage, killing disabled people who can't fly and women and children who can't move as fast as fit men. A lot o people would be hit by lightning strikes if flying when raining. The plane that bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been a freshman from San Francisco with a smaller nuke.

Wars in general would still be almost the same, because humans can't fly so high and could be shot down, but I don't know, the soldiers could wear some bird camo so they could sneak into the enemy's aerospace and drop bombs/grenades.

We could be robbed anywhere, every police pursuit would most likely cause death, because tackling a flying object with another flying object is not that smooth.

But...

We would move from place to place in a cool way, no ladders, some stairs, fewer cars, less traffic, a lot of people would try to do the "deed" in the air, no bird poop. We would most likely be attracted to people with better wings because of natural selection, people would take dumps over buildings and houses, no bicycles because it's lame.

Sentences that would be widely used

"Dude, check that chick's ;) wings, so feathery"

"Don't be such a chicken"

"Look at him, he's a penguin, hahahah"

"Fly me Bruh, fly me now, come on bruh!"

"Man, don't clip my wings"

"OMG, staaahp plucking me, mooom!"

"I believe I can fly!"

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On carrying heavy objects: In some places they've needed to install high fences on pedestrian traffic over-pass bridges to stop the practice of throwing bricks at cars for fun. Now... – Graham Kemp Apr 17 at 0:26

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