Town Deems Commercial UAVs Unlawful Unless Registered With Police

Posted by Betsy Lillian on December 08, 2015 No Comments

The Town of Paradise Valley, Ariz., has adopted its own rules concerning the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including those of commercial operators, hobbyists and emergency responders.

The Paradise Valley Town Council said in its ordinance, which was adopted on Dec. 3, that UAVs “can pose unique safety, nuisance and privacy invasion risks.”

“Thus, regulating the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles within the town is needed to promote the public safety and welfare of the town and its residents.”

The ordinance notes that the rules “are to be read in harmony with all other regulations regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, specifically including any rules promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration.”

The town council has decided that commercial UAV operations in the town on both private and public property are “unlawful” unless users have first registered with the Paradise Valley Police Department (PVPD) and have provided a detailed notice to the PVPD at least four hours before flight. (The registration and flight notice forms can be found here and here, respectively.)

Regarding recreational or hobbyist UAVs, according to the Paradise Valley ordinance, operators may fly on their own property as long as they stay under 500 feet in altitude. Operating over private property without permission could be considered trespassing, and a UAV cannot be used in a “careless or reckless manner that poses an apparent or actual threat of harm danger to persons or property.”

Additionally, the UAVs cannot “transmit any visual images or recordings of any person or property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.” Private property, according to the ordinance, is “all parcels of land within the Town of Paradise Valley limits that are not public property, including, but not limited to, residences, schools, churches, resorts utility substations, golf courses, or canals.”

Additionally, for first-responder use, law enforcement can use UAVs “in response to an emergency situation or after obtaining a warrant based upon probable cause that criminal activity is occurring.”

The ordinance also deems UAV operations over public property within Paradise Valley unlawful unless a special event permit has been issued. The town defines “public property” as “streets, rights of way, parks, mountain preserves and other parcels of land owned by the Town of Paradise Valley or the Mummy Mountain Preserve Trust.”

“Penalties for violation shall be a Class 1 Misdemeanor or punishable under the provisions of Article 1-9 of the Town Code (which suggests that initial violations be charged as a civil violation),” the town council says.

In response to the recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-released report of the recommendations for UAV registration, the Small UAV Coalition suggested that the agency include in its final registration rules an amendment to preempt “duplicative state and local registration requirements.”

The coalition noted that operators will be more likely to accept the FAA registration if they are required to register only with the FAA and not any state or local government, which have no authority to govern or regulate the operation of aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, in national airspace, the group said.

The full ordinance can be found here.

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