City of Raleigh Mulls Significant UAV Ban in Parks

The City of Raleigh, N.C., is considering new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) rules that would drastically limit recreational operations in public parks.

In a recent draft policy, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department (PRCR) said although it recognizes hobbyist drone flying as a “popular recreational activity,” it has “evaluated properties within the park system to determine which may be conducive to UAV flying” and declared that drone operations “would not be a compatible use for areas classified as ‘nature preserves,’ ‘nature parks’ or ‘wetland centers’ or appropriate for lakes wholly owned, managed or leased by the City of Raleigh or PRCR.”

Instead, it has laid out seven parks in which recreational (non-commercial) drone flying would be allowed. Three parks would allow flights from dawn to dusk, and five would allow flights from noon to dusk. Notably, camera-equipped drones would be allowed only in three of the seven parks.

In addition, among other rules, pilots would not be allowed to operate “over people or public events,” over 400 feet above ground level, or beyond the visual line of sight.

The department notes it came up with the policy after “researching other government policy examples and UAV advocacy organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics.”

A subcommittee of the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board met on Thursday to go over the policy. According to a local report from The News & Observer, roughly a dozen people voiced their opinion at the meeting, and some of their concerns centered on congestion – including noise and “heavy foot traffic” – at the designated flying areas. The report points out that there are roughly 90 public parks in Raleigh – thus eliminating a huge portion for UAV operations.

Diana Marina Cooper, who serves as senior vice president of policy and strategy at drone technology company PrecisionHawk, which is based in Raleigh, calls the proposal “excessive” and says the company “support[s] reasonable rules that promote fun, safe, innovative operations,” she Tweeted last week.

Furthermore, the Network of Drone Enthusiasts has rolled out a campaign to urge North Carolina citizens to contact their representatives to vote against the ordinance. Arguing that the policy would “unfairly restrict responsible drone pilots from the city parks,” the group also says the ordinance “doesn’t achieve its stated goal of protecting privacy.”

Photo courtesy of Raleigh’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department: A proposed UAV area in Eastgate Park

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