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Rule would create process to use drones above public spaces

A new ordinance being considered by the Troy City Council would ban drones from being flown above city-owned property, but it would also create a process to permit the same.

Utilities Manager Brian Chandler said the ordinance would prevent residents from flying drones above city property including public spaces such as the Square, but said FAA regulations probably prevent much of that anyway.

“The FAA said you can’t fly a drone over people, and there are typically people on the Square,” Chandler said.

However, if the ordinance is passed, it does not mean any drone flying over the Square or other city properties will be completely blocked; there will be a process created for residents to request permission.

The resident will have to fill out a form that would allow approval of drone flight in the otherwise restricted space pending permission of the mayor and police chief.

Although some hobbyists may be frustrated with the new rule, Chandler said it is needed for various safety reasons.

“This ordinance is to let people know to be careful and aware; don’t take a chance flying a drone around these places disturbing public employees who are working or causing damage,” Chandler said. “Not only could it cause a power outage for an extended period of time, depending on where it lands, it could easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage.”

The ordinance would classify flying a drone over city property as a misdemeanor, which Chandler said would give the city and police authority to make people cease flying a drone over city property if spotted.

“If there’s an ordinance on the books, we or the police department we can say there is a city ordinance that says you can’t do that,” Chandler said. “Right now, there’s no way to enforce that.”

Chandler said the cheaper drones actually might be more dangerous than the professional drones as they are harder to control and are more likely to be flown by somebody untrained in piloting a drone.

There is also a lack of knowledge, Chandler said, about the FAA regulations people must follow when flying a drone, such as the regulation that they may not be flown overhead of people and that they may not be flown at night. There are also other regulations that could impact drone flight including sporting events in the area and military operations or airport flights.

The council can consider the ordinance for a vote at its next meeting on Tuesday, February 25 at City Hall.