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Del Mar pioneers drone rules

Will the squeeze on the beaches push hobbyists back to homes?

"They could launch from the beach and fly perpendicular out over the ocean."
"They could launch from the beach and fly perpendicular out over the ocean."

A new ordinance regulating the use of drones in Del Mar will take effect on June 17.

The rules will "add to guidelines set by the FAA," a city report says. While the Federal Aviation Authority regulates and sets guidelines for drones, local governments can control some aspects.

However, the areas available for local regulation are limited.

Poway restricts drone usage during emergencies. Chula Vista has limits on police and fire department use of drones related to privacy or harassment. San Diego prohibits reckless flying. Oceanside and Carlsbad rely on federal standards.

Del Mar takes it a step further.

"I'm very pleased to see Del Mar getting out in front of this issue, and getting some rules on the books before we have conflicts and clashes," said council member Dwight Worden last month when the ordinance was introduced.

Clem Brown, environmental sustainability and special project manager, said the city will ban drones in some public areas "where we didn't want recreational hobbyists to operate."

Curbing drone use in the locations has been a priority for the parks & recreation committee, Brown said. He cited safety and nuisance issues.

"Those were our most heavily used parks, beaches and open space areas."

In Del Mar, drones are used by the public for commercial film and photography, and these operators can still fly in the public space as long as they have the required credentials and city permit. City and public safety uses, which cover drone services such as assessing environmental conditions, projects, traffic, and emergencies, are exempt.

It's drone hobbyists who will lose ground under the city's no-fly zones. Hobbyists can fly "anywhere not specifically prohibited in the public space" or on private property.

No more recreational use in most city parks and facilities, to include Seagrove, Powerhouse, and Crest Ridge parks, as well as Scripps bluff preserve. Also off-limits are sections of the San Dieguito Lagoon River Park which Del Mar has jurisdiction over. And no drones on city beaches.

One park that didn't land on the restricted list is the 5.3 acre Shores park.

But what about someone sitting at Seagrove park, wanting to send their drone out over the ocean?

"They could launch from the beach and fly perpendicular out over the ocean, but not up and down along the beach," Brown said.

Flying above the Del Mar Fairgrounds requires permission from fairground officials. And the bluffs overlap the North County transit corridor, where commercial or hobby flying is barred by transit district regulations, even if they don't have an official drone policy.

In addition to a 400-foot height limit, both recreational and commercial drone operators must register and mark their aircraft. Commercial operators will have to obtain a city, as well as a Federal Aviation Administration permit.

Where drone issues get sticky for many people is around image capturing and invisible operators. The ordinance covers city public space but doesn't tackle drones over homes.

Federal law kicks in, even when operating a drone on private property. "The FAA does tend to regulate this area very strictly," said deputy city attorney, Loren Gilmore. And drones are still subject to existing privacy laws. But filing complaints with the city and enforcing the rules won't be easy.

The ordinance could end up as an example of rules without teeth, said deputy mayor Terry Gaasterland. "Because there's pretty much no way to figure out who's flying it or where they are."

Gaasterland wondered if the city's restrictions might push drone users into the private areas. "If we're pushing them back from the bluffs and beaches and parks, we may be pushing them into the streets and backyards."

John Peterson, a resident who supports the ordinance, was all for ridding the parks of drones.

"No longer will sunset watchers and picnickers have to tolerate mini buzzsaws flying overhead."

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"They could launch from the beach and fly perpendicular out over the ocean."
"They could launch from the beach and fly perpendicular out over the ocean."

A new ordinance regulating the use of drones in Del Mar will take effect on June 17.

The rules will "add to guidelines set by the FAA," a city report says. While the Federal Aviation Authority regulates and sets guidelines for drones, local governments can control some aspects.

However, the areas available for local regulation are limited.

Poway restricts drone usage during emergencies. Chula Vista has limits on police and fire department use of drones related to privacy or harassment. San Diego prohibits reckless flying. Oceanside and Carlsbad rely on federal standards.

Del Mar takes it a step further.

"I'm very pleased to see Del Mar getting out in front of this issue, and getting some rules on the books before we have conflicts and clashes," said council member Dwight Worden last month when the ordinance was introduced.

Clem Brown, environmental sustainability and special project manager, said the city will ban drones in some public areas "where we didn't want recreational hobbyists to operate."

Curbing drone use in the locations has been a priority for the parks & recreation committee, Brown said. He cited safety and nuisance issues.

"Those were our most heavily used parks, beaches and open space areas."

In Del Mar, drones are used by the public for commercial film and photography, and these operators can still fly in the public space as long as they have the required credentials and city permit. City and public safety uses, which cover drone services such as assessing environmental conditions, projects, traffic, and emergencies, are exempt.

It's drone hobbyists who will lose ground under the city's no-fly zones. Hobbyists can fly "anywhere not specifically prohibited in the public space" or on private property.

No more recreational use in most city parks and facilities, to include Seagrove, Powerhouse, and Crest Ridge parks, as well as Scripps bluff preserve. Also off-limits are sections of the San Dieguito Lagoon River Park which Del Mar has jurisdiction over. And no drones on city beaches.

One park that didn't land on the restricted list is the 5.3 acre Shores park.

But what about someone sitting at Seagrove park, wanting to send their drone out over the ocean?

"They could launch from the beach and fly perpendicular out over the ocean, but not up and down along the beach," Brown said.

Flying above the Del Mar Fairgrounds requires permission from fairground officials. And the bluffs overlap the North County transit corridor, where commercial or hobby flying is barred by transit district regulations, even if they don't have an official drone policy.

In addition to a 400-foot height limit, both recreational and commercial drone operators must register and mark their aircraft. Commercial operators will have to obtain a city, as well as a Federal Aviation Administration permit.

Where drone issues get sticky for many people is around image capturing and invisible operators. The ordinance covers city public space but doesn't tackle drones over homes.

Federal law kicks in, even when operating a drone on private property. "The FAA does tend to regulate this area very strictly," said deputy city attorney, Loren Gilmore. And drones are still subject to existing privacy laws. But filing complaints with the city and enforcing the rules won't be easy.

The ordinance could end up as an example of rules without teeth, said deputy mayor Terry Gaasterland. "Because there's pretty much no way to figure out who's flying it or where they are."

Gaasterland wondered if the city's restrictions might push drone users into the private areas. "If we're pushing them back from the bluffs and beaches and parks, we may be pushing them into the streets and backyards."

John Peterson, a resident who supports the ordinance, was all for ridding the parks of drones.

"No longer will sunset watchers and picnickers have to tolerate mini buzzsaws flying overhead."

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Comments
1

Sorry Del Mar, that is not how this works. The FAA has sole authority over the airspace in the USA. And by airspace, it doesn't matter if it's 1/4" or 400' overhead. No municipality can enforce any law contrary to FAA regulations. It's simply not their jurisdiction. It's like the city of del mar making a law against parking on a street in the city of Chula Vista.

When you say "local governments can control some aspects", this is true. They can control where pilots can physically lift off, land and control the aircraft from (provided it is public property like a city park). But the moment the aircraft is airborne, the aircraft itself is subject to FAA rules and regulations, not the city of Del Mar. i.e. there is nothing stopping anyone from controlling, taking off and landing on private property while flying over the fairgrounds.

If the fairgrounds is full of people then the FAA rules regarding flying over people apply - not the city of Del Mar and not the del mar fairgrounds policy. It's not their airspace to regulate.

The FAA will grant a waver to fly over people but the aircraft must have a parachute system so it doesn't fall like rock in the event of a failure.

In regards to flying during an emergency, this is also already regulated at the federal level. These local regulations are "feel good" regulations only and have no force of law. i.e. you already can not interfere with emergency aircraft (49 U.S.C. § 46320).

June 16, 2020

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