Oceanside council moves toward drone regulations

OCEANSIDE — To fill in the enforcement gap between commercial drone operators regulated by the FAA and freewheeling recreational hobbyists, Oceanside is moving forward with city drone regulations.

Police Lt. Aaron Doyle shared collected complaints, and the need for local drone regulations at the Nov. 1 City Council meeting.

Doyle said there were 13 emergency calls about drone operations last year. This year there have been 23 calls.

Examples of local drone incidents ranged from interfering with firefighting to drones crashing into crowds.

In June a drone caused Oceanside firefighter air operations to stop for an hour.

In July an operator lost control of his drone at the pier, which caused it to fall and injure an unsuspecting person.

In August another operator lost control of his drone at the beach and caused a near miss in an outdoor crowd.

Doyle said in addition to public safety, a small percentage of drone operators misuse drones to stake out a home for a burglary or hover as a peeping Tom.

The growing popularity, lower cost and ease of use has increased drone traffic. From 2014 to 2015 drone purchases increased by 63 percent.

Federal regulations to guide commercial drone operators were adopted in 2016. These rules must be enforced by federal agents.

“FAA 107 does not apply to hobbyists,” Doyle said. “The result is an increasing number of incidents.”

Introduced city regulations mirror federal guidelines, deter stalking and invasion of privacy, and ensure public safety.

Regulations include rules about when and where drones can operate. They also state that operations must not interfere with aircraft. The person operating a drone also must have visual sight of it, in order to spot obstacles and hazards.

Drones can only be operated during daylight hours and they must be two miles away from active firefighting.

Other restrictions include that drones must be kept 25 feet from a person. The drone operator also may not record audio or video of a person on private property where a person expects privacy.

Other areas restricted from drone operations are schools through grade 12, city hall, police and fire stations, city parks, beaches, pier and special events.

“What’s not allowed is anything that is illegal, to annoy, pester or stalk,” Doyle said.

“If they’re not recording, and not flying over people, we have no concern there.”

Doyle said city police encourage positive recreational use. He added flying and filming over restricted spaces is allowed with a permit.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez questioned restrictions over scenic public places. She asked that the cost of a permit be reasonable so the price does not impede artistic drone videography.

A price estimate of $150 for a permit was shared, which Sanchez said was too high.

“There’s a lot of creativity out there,” Sanchez said.

City staff said they would look into permit costs.

Also included in the regulations is a $1,000 fine for each offense, and possible impoundment of a drone. Lifeguards will be able to enforce drone regulations.

City Council voted 4-0 to accept the introduction of drone regulations Nov. 1. Council will vote to adopt regulations at a future meeting.

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