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Beverly Hills Could Look Into Regulating Drones

Drones
Beverly Hills could look into regulating drones, particularly those that could be used by the general public. (Thinkstock)

In a potential move to provide privacy protections for its residents, the Beverly Hills City Council could soon be considering an ordinance regulating the use of drones over the upscale municipality.

Councilwoman Nancy Krasne formally requested her colleagues look into introducing a “local privacy protection ordinance” to regulate drone above Beverly Hills.

According to a City staff report, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not regulate drones (officially called “Unmanned Aerial System,” or UAS). The FAA currently has a policy prohibiting commercial use of drones, but it was determined at a federal hearing the policy cannot be legally enforced.

There is also the prospect of drones soon being made available to the general public at low price points.

“Due to falling costs of UAS technology including vehicles and camera equipment, they have become readily available and affordable to the general public,” City staff stated in a report to Beverly Hills council members. “Private ownership and operation of a UAS/drone is now possible with costs starting as low as $100. UAS/drones may be equipped with high definition, infrared, and night vision cameras.”

City staff added the FAA must “develop and implement operational and certification requirements for the operation of public [drones] in the national airspace system” by Dec. 31, 2015.

Also according to City staff, no cities within California have laws on the books covering the potential misuse of drones.

Drones, or UAS, are aircraft without an onboard pilot or any other human presence, according to the FAA.

“These devices may be as simple as a remotely controlled model aircraft used for recreational purposes or as complex as surveillance aircraft flying over hostile areas in warfare. They may be controlled either manually or through an autopilot using a data link to connect the pilot to their aircraft,” a public document by the FAA states. “They may perform a variety of public services: surveillance, collection of air samples to determine levels of pollution, or rescue and recovery missions in crisis situations.”

The FAA adds a drone can have wingspans ranging from six inches to 246 feet wide and weigh as light as four ounces or as heavy as 25,600 pounds.

“The one thing they have in common is that their numbers and uses are growing dramatically,” the FAA stated. “In the United States alone, approximately 50 companies, universities, and government organizations are developing and producing some 155 unmanned aircraft designs.”

Also according to the FAA, drones are most commonly used right now by the Dept. of Defense.

Further, the FAA states U.S. operations in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations abroad “have fueled a huge increase in unmanned aircraft demand.”

“In Iraq alone, more than 700 unmanned aircraft are in use for surveillance and weapons delivery,” the FAA stated.

Drones have also been used by the Customs and Border Protection to patrol the United States’ border with Mexico.

The FAA added one potential benefit of drone use within the United States would be to help provided reports to first responders of damage caused by catastrophe or severe weather conditions.

Beverly Hills’ council members will weigh in on Krasne’s request to consider an ordinance regulating drones in the City at a special study session held May 20 at City Hall. The study session begins at 1:30 p.m.

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