According to the Arizona Republic, the postponement stemmed from “last-minute changes to the draft prior to the meeting [that] left some citizens and Council members unclear on the proposal.”
The proposed ordinance would allow “licensed businesses and industries” to use drones in commercial activity, as well as aerial mapping or package delivery. Also, hobbyists would be able to fly drones under current Phoenix laws regarding remote-control aircraft flight in municipal parks.
The city’s police department would, under the ordinance, be empowered to enforce new prohibitions that would be classified as misdemeanors, including:
- Operating a drone within 500 feet horizontally or 250 feet vertically from the outermost wall of a “critical facility” without the owner’s consent. Those areas include water-treatment facilities, government offices like Phoenix City Hall and the Arizona state Capitol and facilities used for sports, entertainment or education that hold more than 500 people.
- Operating a drone within five miles of an airport without proper permission.
- Using a drone to kill birds or animals.
- Weaponizing a drone or operating a drone recklessly.
- Using a drone to knowingly record or view another person without his or her consent in situations prohibited by state law.
However, thanks to a new Fact Sheet released by the FAA on Friday, the Phoenix proposal may go down in flames before it’s scheduled to be reviewed in January. The FAA warned that the federal agency retained sole “authority to regulate the areas of airspace use, management and efficiency, air traffic control, safety, navigational facilities, and aircraft noise at its source” and that “if one or two municipalities enacted ordinances regulating UAS in the navigable airspace and a significant number of municipalities followed suit, fractionalized control of the navigable airspace could result.”
The proposal has drawn strong opposition from the Small UAV Coalition. The industry group, which represents noted drone luminaries 3D Robotics, AGI, AirMap, Amazon Prime Air, GoPro, Intel, Kespry and Parrot, sent a letter to the Phoenix City Council on Dec. 1.
The Coalition seems to have anticipated the FAA’s Fact Sheet position, noting that due to the “preemptive nature of federal law in this area, such a local ordinance is not necessary.” The letter points out that the language of the ordinance mirrors the process of granting exemptions to drone users similar to the FAA’s Section 333.
Specifically, the Coalition opposes municipal licensing requirements for drone photography. “While businesses operating in the State of Arizona may be subject to a licensing regime, any business operating a UAV that is required to be licensed by Federal law should not be subject to duplicative or inconsistent state law,” said Small UAV Coalition legal counsel Gregory Walden.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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