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Greenfield bans drones near emergency situations, large gatherings

GREENFIELD, WI (WDJT) ---

As unmanned aerial vehicles become more common throughout Southeast Wisconsin, Greenfield officials have taken the unusual step of regulating them on a local level.

Tuesday night, Greenfield's Common Council approved legislation, banning the use of drones in certain situations. 

    "The police chief was concerned over the use of drones," says Alderman Bruce Bailey. "We figured it would be a good idea to be ahead of the curve on this." 

Under the new legislation, drone operators cannot fly within 500 feet of the following: 

  • any emergency vehicle which is operating its emergency lights or siren 
  • any active law enforcement, firefighting, or emergency response incident
  • any school while school is in session 
  • any law enforcement, jail, or municipal lockup facility
  • any festival, event, picnic, protest or public assembly of more than one-hundred persons. 

Drone operators can also not operate a UAV outside of their visual line of sight (bad news for Amazon), or launch or land a UAV from private property without the owners consent. 

    "We were concerned that they would invade people's privacy," says Bailey. "We want to keep the drones away from police and fire incidents, because it can be intrusive. It could compromise the situation." 

Bailey says the city hasn't had any reported problems with drones yet, but decided to pass the ordinance as a safety precaution. 

    "We haven't had any complaints, this was just about being proactive," he says. 

Bailey says the legislation wouldn't impact the media, which "already has to stay 500 feet away." However, no such rule currently exists. 

It's unclear whether the city contacted the FAA before passing the new regulations.

In a statement to CBS-58, the FAA says "Any rules of flight, regardless of altitude, need to be coordinated with the FAA to ensure safety and consistency in the nation's airspace."

The federal government has repeatedly taken a strong stance against local governments over-riding their authority:

State and local restrictions affecting UAS operations should be consistent with the extensive federal statutory and regulatory framework pertaining to control of the airspace.

In turn, this ‘patchwork quilt’ of differing restrictions could severely limit the flexibility of FAA in controlling the airspace and flight patterns, and ensuring safety and an efficient air traffic flow. A navigable airspace free from inconsistent state and local restrictions is essential to the maintenance of a safe and sound air transportation system


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