Revisiting Crowded Skies: The Drones Are Coming

ARTICLE | Feb 26, 2016

The Alliance’s November 10, 2015 webinar “Crowded Skies, The Drones are Coming” was held on November 10, 2015 and was cohosted by President for the Alliance For Innovation Karen Thoreson and Director of ASU’s Center of Urban Innovation Dr. David Swindell, explored the headline making topic of unmanned aircraft. The webinar was aboutdiscussed the coming impact of drones, including the policies that have been proposed, passed or discussed at both the federal and local levels of government, and what local governments can do to prepare for their arrival.

The webinar started off with Karen Thoreson taking a poll amongst attending government officials that had discussed or thought about legislation in regard to drones. Most attendees had not passed or proposed any legislation in regards to drones and only a few had even been thinking about them.  The webinar proceeded into an informative discussion about the basics of drones. Dr. Swindell discussed their current state of affairs, upcoming things, challenges, local government actions and disruptive technologies.              

According to Swindell the FAA requires that drones cannot fly above 500 feet, can only weigh 55 pounds, not exceed 100 mph in flight speed and they must be within the line of sight of the pilot. There is no current registration requirement or training needed in order to operate them, but people must get FAA approval in order to perform commercial activities with the machines. Vague and confusing legal situations regarding drones exist and previous laws have been discussed regarding property rights, surveillance and how high or low the drones could fly.

Swindell spoke on ‘What’s coming? The future of drones,’ stating the number of drones flying will increase drastically over the next few years; the FAA will establish a drone registry;  and there will be increased usage by news organizations and police departments.  

Governments will face future challenges with technologies and countermeasures such as “geofencing.” Potential uses of drones for public safety include maintenance inspection that removes the need to risk a human’s life in a dangerous area, and the weaponization of drones that some people fear We should expect Important conversations regarding the balance between safety and privacy against legitimate uses of the drone technology.      

The Town of Deer Trail, CO, proposed a bounty to be paid to civilians to hunt down and shoot drones out of the sky (even though shooting down a drone is considered a federal violation).  Certain places such as Phoenix, AZ will have a proposed vote on how much data can be collected from drones and drawing a clear boundary of criminal vs tort issues.

Local Governments will need to work with and not against drones, they will be disruptive and need to be paid attention paid to them;  there will be a big increase in their usage both privately and commercially.

Below are a few articles that relate to the webinar and their impact on local governments. The first article is from NBC regarding how legislation is proceeding at the local and state level in regards to drone activity.  The second is from Municipal Research Services Center out of Washington state that gives specific instructions on what regulations can and cannot be provided by local governments in relation to drones.

Some things that listeners can take away from this webinar is that there will be a very important movement towards utilizing drones in different ways and local governments need to know what actions they can take to help make that transition better. Local government also need to understand the rules and capabilities of drones to help better inform constituents on what they can and cannot do with them.

Purchase the webinar here.

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