Federal regulators are constantly working to clarify commercial and hobbyist drone laws. While most cities are standing by, one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations is trying something new.
Orlando recently passed a drone law that requires permits for flying in the city. The law also lays out fines for violators and says those operating drones while under the influence could face jail time. Drone use is restricted within 500 feet of schools, city-owned parks and venues and of gatherings with more than 1,000 people, according to the new ordinance. Permits required to fly in these areas cost $20 per flight or $150 annually. Violating the rules of the ordinance can cost between $200 - 400.
“The city of Orlando is not anti-drone. We did this to ensure that everyone knew what the rules are and open it up so people could freely operate their drones without having any concerns that they were going to be violating any rules or get in trouble. We think by enacting this ordinance we’ve made Orlando significantly more drone friendly and that was always the purpose of this ordinance.”
Moore, the Chief Assistant City Attorney, went on to say that the ordinance doesn’t regulate airspace since that is controlled by the FAA. The Orlando ordinance has to do with land use, as in where you’re standing when taking off and landing your drone. Moore said if you have your Part 107 exemption, meaning you’ve been authorized by the FAA, you are able to fly in the city. He also said that if a hobbyist has been authorized for a specific flight by the FAA he or she does not need a permit. Opponents of the law say it is overly restrictive. They say the law allows authorities to take their equipment and leaves hobbyist very few options for where they can fly.
“Unfortunately in Orlando, there’s not a lot of open land. You need a runway to take off from so you need a big area, like a baseball field, or a football field. Guess where all of those are? In parks or in schools. I think that the main concern is that we’re all going to be looking over our shoulders all of the time. People are going to be scared to fly in Orlando.”
The law doesn’t have weight restrictions, like FAA regulations do. Opponents, like Shawn Morrison, say this is also a major issue.
“I brought them a Tiny Whoop and I said, ‘Look, your ordinance restricts even these things’ these things kids buy at Toys R Us. Now it’s illegal for a kid to take it outside and fly it over the street or over their house. It’s illegal for them to fly over a park. It’s illegal for them to fly over a school. So, I mean where are we supposed to take these things to fly safely?”
Officials say they have given the Parks Department the ability to implement “Drone Zones” where people can come and fly a drone without a permit. With help from the AMA, officials hope to have these areas open by the second week of March. They say there is no distinction in weight class because weight is irrelevant to the issues they are trying to address. While only time will tell whether this new law is a success or not, officials like Moore remain optimistic.
“This ordinance will have no bearing on responsible drone users, there’s no doubt in my mind. What it will allow is where before when people would fly over one of our stadiums and police had to call the FAA for them to come out in 2 or 3 weeks and possibly conduct an investigation. Now officers, because of the city ordinance, can immediately act and we can reduce that public safety concern.”
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