The proposed ordinance mirrors existing FAA regulations – but gives city police the authority to cite drone operators breaking the rules.
The legislation was carefully considered. A broad-based working committee formed over a year ago researched existing regulations before coming up with their proposal: “In November 2015, the Office of Homeland Security convened the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Working Group. The UAS Working Group consisted of members from the Office of Homeland Security, the Police Department, the Fire-Rescue Department, the Office of the City Attorney, the Office of Special Events, the Public Utilities Department, and the Real Estate Assets Department,” says the ordinance. “The group ultimately expanded to include the San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center, the Harbor Police, and a representative from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The UAS Working Group also received input from multiple Council District Offices.”
“The UAS Working Group conducted a thorough review of existing legislation and regulations, including the FAA Modernization Reform Act of 2012, California Assembly Bill 856, and ordinances approved in Berkeley, CA; Poway, CA; Los Angeles; CA; Miami, FL; Chicago, IL, and Pittsburgh, PA. Additionally, the UAS Working Group reviewed bills in the State Legislature under discussion, as well as pending legislation from other local agencies.”
While drone advocates say that San Diego’s ordinance is unnecessary, the law does appear to avoid the “patchwork quilt” of local regulations that differ from national Part 107 drone laws. San Diego’s law just adds the FAA’s regulations into the city’s municipal code, allowing local law enforcement officials to issue citations and enforce them. The law states that drones may not be operated in a “careless or reckless manner,” in violation of any FAA restriction, or in a manner that interferes with government or emergency agencies. Drone operators convicted of violations could face a fine of $1,000 or six months in jail for a misdemeanor; an infraction would result in a fine of $250 increasing to $500 for a second violation within the same year.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.