ENCINITAS — Encinitas is considering using its local authority to regulate drones after the Encinitas Traffic and Public Safety Commission voted to recommend the City Council draft a so-called drone ordinance a week before federal regulators announced new rules regarding drone operations.
The traffic commission on June 13 voted in favor of drafting an ordinance for the city attorney and council’s consideration.
‘An outright ban on drones does remove a lot of the positives of it,” Chairman Brian Grover said. “But I’ve been at Moonlight Beach with three drones overhead and it’s really damn annoying when they are just sitting there. I just think we need to agree that one, is it or is it not a public safety issue and do we want to ask staff to move forward with an ordinance, and I would say yes to both of those.”
Unmanned aircraft systems have become increasingly popular due to their recreational, photography and aeronautical applications, but their popularity has raised nuisance, public safety and security concerns from the local to national level.
The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that the number of commercial and hobbyist drones will increase from 2.5 million in 2016 to 7 million in 2020.
The city began tackling the issues surrounding drones following several incidents last year, including one at Moonlight Beach in August 2015 that received national attention after a man was arrested for felony vandalism after he threw his shirt at a drone that had been hovering above him and his friends. The charges were later dropped.
One local man, John Herron, drafted an extensive memo to the city about a number of the issues and incidents surrounding drones and urged the city to take action within its regulatory authority.
A number of cities, including Poway locally, have adopted urgency ordinances that prohibit the operation (takeoff and landing) of drones in certain areas or as in the case of Poway’s ordinance, in an area where an emergency has been declared.
City Attorney Glenn Sabine wrote a memo that concluded that while the FAA regulates airspace activities above 400 feet, the agency does not regulate hobbyists’ activities below 400 feet.
A week after the commission’s vote, the FAA announced the rollout of its highly anticipated rules on commercial drone flight, marking the agency’s first attempt at a comprehensive plan to ensure the popular remote-controlled aircraft can safely share the skies with commercial aircraft.
The FAA’s 624-page rule book allows commercial drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly during daylight hours and lower than 400 feet in the air, or higher if within 400 feet of a taller building or tower. The drones must remain within sight of the operator or an observer who is in communication with the operator.
The operators must be at least 16 years old and pass an aeronautics test every 24 months for a certificate and a background check by the Transportation Security Administration.