Description: All over the country towns are making their own drone ordinances, but the FAA already has the essential rules in place so who's right? See what you can do to help persuade lawmakers, city officials, civic leaders, and the general public that drones are good and local laws can be more progressive and open to UAV pilots. KENDALL MARK: Drone regulations can be very confusing for uninitiated pilots. Even now in 2018, it seems like the rules are often fragmented at the local level and unenforced at a federal level. In fact, according to Market Watch, only one drone pilot has ever been busted for flying commercially without a license, and he got off with a warning. I think we all want to follow the rules and avoid trouble, but with the parallel legal system of state and federal laws here in the US, sometimes it can get confusing. How can we be progressive when it comes to simplifying regulations and still maintain a high degree of safety and respect for others? We spoke to community organizer Aaron Sykes, co-founder of MAV Meetup. AARON SYKES: We are a drone group, we have 870 members, we do drone education, safety and community outreach work. We do everything from fly days to educational sessions… I’m also a volunteer safety representative for the FAA through part of their Wings program. So I work with the folks over at the Minneapolis flight standards district office and I put on a few seminars talking about basically drone policy and how that relates both primarily to primarily hobbyist users but also professional users as well. A lot of the bigger cities and highly populated areas are going to have something on the book probably from the 60’s or 70’s saying don’t fly your remote controlled airplane in our city park like Minneapolis does. But that’s because frankly back in those days a “drone” was a 35-pound balsa wood, gas powered p51 Replica! And it totally checks out that you might not want to be flying that in a populated area. Right? So there’s those ones on the books, then there’s also quite a few new ones – St. Beneficious in Minnesota here, was one of the first ones --- They actually made an ordinance saying you couldn’t fly drones above St. Bonne town limits. So there’s really 2 fighting factions when it comes to local drone ordinances and local drone policies, by and large, and this isn’t a blanket statement – this is what I’ve personally witnessed, is that you have people that are interested in preserving a semblance of privacy or people that are concerned about the technology to be potentially used for bad reasons, and those are the drivers behind ordinances or laws or whatever you call them that really limit drone use. KENDALL: Restricting drones at the local level, however, has led to lawsuits for some of those municipalities. In Newton, Massachusetts for example, the city was sued in Federal court by a resident, Dr. Michael Singer, because the new ordinances sought to require localized UAV registration, amongst other rules, were already preempted by federal laws. DR. MICHAEL SINGER: “There are essentially 2 parallel systems of law, we have Federal law and we have state law. I think we can all agree that it’s not feasible to have city by city and town by town registration of unmanned aircraft.” | “I think we need to educate the public and make clear that flying a drone over a property does not constitute spying on the property. People can use microphones and hidden microphones to spy on people, they can use telescopes and binoculars, they can even use airplanes and helicopters to spy on people but we don’t outlaw those items and we don’t restrict their use simply because we suspect they’re being used to spy. Instead we outlaw spying, we outlaw invasions of privacy and I think that that is where the laws need to be directed, not over flight and transit through airspace.” AARON SYKES: All of a sudden you have a local entity that’s creating policy that’s actually the jurisdiction of the FAA. The FAA controls everything from grass level all the way to outer space and so if you look at the actual law, and full disclaimer I’m not an attorney here, but what you see is, for instance the Minneapolis Park and Rec Board, which is a local organization that has something on the books against flying drones or RC aircraft, Is What they can actually regulate is they can regulate the launch and recovery from their property what they can’t do is they can’t say where it can fly. And so a lot of its being done from – a privacy perspective and I think that it’s really important, especially as hobbyist drone users, that we need to respect that. We need to respect that space, both from the shots that we want to get, but also from the idea of being ambassadors of the technology. The more that we can show people that drones are good, as a lot of people like to say, The truth is that every time we go fly we have that choice; we have that choice to show people that drones are good. And it might be something as simple as smiling and showing them your iPad and showing the live view of the city from a perspective they’ve never seen before. And I think that that in and of itself is an Incredible source of power that a lot of drone pilots have that I think a lot of us don’t necessarily leverage. KENDALL: Positively interfacing with the general public and especially civic leaders is one of the most progressive and effective ways to effect drone policy. Take Haysville, Kansas for example: KSN NEWS ANCHOR: “Change is in the air for some drone users, the city of Haysville voted tonight to allow the unmanned aircrafts on public property.” Bruce Armstrong Mayor of Haysville, KS: “Originally we were more restrictive, because we didn’t have a good handle, like a lot of people, on drone themselves – but we actually had some of our residents that came to us and said, you know, ‘we’d like to be able to fly our drones in the city’ “The rules we put together basically a lot of them talk about the same thing the FAA does, but the main thing that ours does is let people take off and land from our city parks.” KENDALL: Simplifying local laws makes them easier to enforce and to be compliant… AARON: I would call City Hall and say ‘Hey guys, is there any reason I can’t fly a drone in your city?!’ Sometimes it was Department of Public Works sometimes it was Park and Rec Boards sometimes, it was, you know, the Police had extra ordinances on the books to protect privacy and you’d literally get bounced around to 4 or 5 different departments within the City Hall there itself to try to make sure that all the bases were covered so that you could fly. | So I think that’s a common challenge among a lot of hobbyist drone pilots where they want to be good ambassadors the want to operate completely compliant with all code, but it’s just a process of where to you go to find the information in an accessible way. | And that’s something I’m really happy to see. To have great partners with other drone groups and then with Minnesota DOT Aerospace that we can actually start to address that because once everything is on the table, following the laws is easy. KENDALL: Talking with Bruce you could really see how the efforts of everyday UAV pilots can influence change. AARON: “In talking with some elected officials and people that are in the policy world, the concern is sometimes of ‘well we need to allow these people to fly drones because it’s their right to,’ I don’t know if it’s a right to - I don’t know – I’m not an attorney – heads ups guys! (breaking 4th wall,) This is way outside of my comfort zone! Haha, but the flip side of it is: the larger driver behind some of these ordinances is Reasonable expectation of privacy towards non-participants.” It’s important to recognize that, that everyone is entitled to privacy and part of our job as recreational and especially as professional pilots, is to make sure that everyone that is getting their picture taken knows it, or at least has some sort of comfort there. And I think, you know, a lot of it is just the newness of everything. KENDALL: Pilots all over the country are having a huge effect on helping to clarify the role of drones in the National Airspace. So until a high tech UAV traffic management system is operational, which the FAA and NASA are collaborating to make, the best approach may just be to make new friends at your local park as well as City Hall.