Last week, the Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously passed an ordinance to adopt regulations regarding the flight of drones.
The regulations adopted for the town will be the same as the existing federal laws for small aircrafts, the Code of Federal Regulations Title 14, part 107 of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Police Chief Chris Blue led the discussion; he called the drone regulations common sense.
“Drones to be operated daylight only, within line of sight of the operator, operated in a safe way and not carelessly, height limitations clearly in a community with an airport and helipads, those height restrictions are really important and those are captured in the 107 guidelines, as are some other things that we think are particularly important when you think about a special event,” said Blue. “Transporting nothing, and dropping nothing, not flying over people, and not flying if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. None of those provisions keep people who are appropriately authorized and signed the right waivers from flying under those allowances…
“But for the hobbyist or the casual user we are looking for some local regulation.”
Mayor Pam Hemminger says the discussion surrounding drone regulations was brought up by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a national organization of 1,408 mayors.
“Cities are trying to take action mostly just for safety reasons…there have been crashes into cars, into people, into buildings, and that’s a huge safety risk,” said Hemminger.
Chief Blue said that while federal laws regarding small aircrafts are in place, local police are currently unable to enforce federal laws.
“A violation would be a misdemeanor, kind of like an open container of alcohol is a local ordinance violation, that kind of thing,” said Blue. “And it is important to stress that just because we have it on the books – I’m thinking about Halloween in particular – there are an awful lot of rules that we enforce without taking enforcement action. So just because someone is flying a drone doesn’t mean that we’re going to go and charge them with a crime…
“It does, however, give us an opportunity to have a conversation and remind people of the local laws and why they’re in place.”
According to Blue, the police department is assembling materials to put out information regarding drone rules prior to Franklin Street’s Homegrown Halloween event, as well as maintaining communication with commercial drone operators.