Ocean City to Consider Ban on Use of Drones

first_imgOcean City may take a lead in knocking drones out of the sky until the federal or state governments find a better way to regulate them.A fully rigged drone equipped with a GoPro camera flies over Ocean City in a 2014 demonstration.City Council on Thursday (Oct. 22) will consider the first reading of an ordinance that would ban drones “from airspace within five miles of the Ocean City Airport.” That radius includes all of Ocean City.If passed the law would apply anywhere within Ocean City’s borders and ban drone flight at any height.Ocean City would be among the very first towns in New Jersey to adopt such a measure.When Long Beach Township passed a similar drone ban in May 2015, Mayor Joseph Mancini said he knew of no other New Jersey municipality that had already done so.Recreational drones — small and light battery-operated devices that typically include multiple helicopter-shaped rotors — are increasingly common sights. They cost anywhere from $100 to $5,000 with high-priced models carrying more sophisticated cameras and flying for longer periods of time over greater range.The devices have produced spectacular video of everything in Ocean City from aerial scenery to coastal erosion from the northeast gale earlier this month (see YouTube index of Ocean City drone videos). They also have become an increasingly common tool in showcasing real estate in Ocean City.But drones also have the potential to become a nuisance and an invasion of privacy.The ordinance that City Council will consider on Thursday lists the following threats presented by drones:“The capability to watch individuals and groups without notice and without their permission in an unprecedented way.”“The capability to monitor cell phone and text-messaging.”“A potential threat to aircraft, which is of particular concern in Ocean City because it operates a public airport frequented by small aircraft.”“An unreasonable and unacceptable threat to the rights of individual privacy and safety.”“Potential impacts (because technology is developing so rapidly) on safety, privacy and Fourth Amendment rights that are difficult to predict.”“Regulation is way behind the sales of drones.” Ocean City Police Capt. Steve Ang said. “We’re behind the eight-ball.”If passed, the ordinance would allow Ocean City “to not deal with drones” until federal and state regulators come up with better policy or law._________Get the Daily: Sign up for our free Ocean City news service_________Federal Aviation Administration “guidelines” ask recreational operators to fly their devices no higher than 400 feet and to seek permission if they fly anywhere within five miles of an airport.But beyond the FAA guidelines, there’s little in the law to govern the relatively new devices.A drone flying over a football scrimmage between Ocean City High School and Middle Township High School interrupted play for about 20 minutes in August. (Read more: Drone Buzzes O.C. Football Game, Flies Off Into Legal Void.)Parents and spectators watching the game reported the small remote-controlled device flying close to the field then moving back and forth in an apparent attempt to buzz by different players during the delay in the game.By the time police were notified, the drone had flown away.But even if the owner had been identified, police would have been in uncharted territory with no laws directly applicable to the use of drones.“It’s going to become a bigger problem as they become cheaper and easier to purchase,” Ang said at the time.A Lower Township man was indicted on charges of possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief in August for allegedly blasting a drone out of the sky near his home with a shotgun.The drone owner told investigators he was using it to capture photographs of his friend’s house, which was under construction.The proposed ordinance will be considered at the public City Council meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 22) at City Hall.See full text of the proposed local ordinance in the Agenda Packet for the meeting.Read more:Know Before You Fly trade association guidelinesFAA Unmanned Aircraft System FAQ The proposed five-mile radius for a ban on the use of drones around the Ocean City Municipal Airport includes all of Ocean City.last_img

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