It starts at the park: Local governments lead the way in drone advocacy and regulation

Photo: Marco Verch
Photo: Marco Verch

This summer, families across the world will be upgrading their toy kites to toy drones. A local park is an ideal space for play – plenty of open space, clear skies, and fun activities to film, from jungle gym adventures to grand slams at little league. It’s up to our families and neighbors to decide how, when and where to use toy drones. Local governments are taking a crucial role to lead the conversation in integrating technology in to city programs, and to create local guidelines to help guide residents on safe and proper use of drones.

Local governments are the first responders to drone activity. They’re integrating drones in to their safety programs, to support police surveillance and fire detection. Drone use is the next frontier and integration to the concept of a “Smart City,” a notion that describes how local governments are integrating multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IoT) solutions to manage a city’s assets. Drone safety starts at the local level, and advocates for drones are using their voices to support fair regulations and create a community that promote accountability, without sacrificing private security.

IoT 101

The concept of IoT is of particular note as it describes everyday devices which are connected to the internet, and can share data with a server. IoT is a tremendous asset for local governments in their development of advanced tech programs for anything from street and traffic lights, all the way to lawn sprinkler systems. At home, IoT devices could include home security systems, heating and air conditioning, and televisions. For Dedrone, drones are considered a part of IoT, as they can be connected through a wireless network to communicate with a pilot and provide real-time imaging. This wireless connection is also how Dedrone’s DroneTracker software can use a Wi-Fi and Radio Frequency sensor to detect the location of a drone up to 1km away.

Dedrone recently connected with the IoT Institute to discuss the ways drone threats are challenging innovators in the IoT industry and engineers in smart cities.

Local governments managing residents, infrastructure and new threats from drones

Municipalities and counties are not only the first resource for creating rules for residents, but also are the leaders of regional airports, prisons and stadiums. Their concerns for drone safety reach every person and building within their city limits, and it’s up to them to decide how and when to integrate drone safety regulations.

For example, Dedrone worked with the local police forces in Hempstead, NY to coordinate security for the 2016 presidential debate of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at Hofstra University. When VIPs are in town, it’s up to the local police force to ensure roads are blocked, emergency services are readily available, and now, with the rise of drone activity, make certain their airspace is cleared from drone threats. The City of Hempstead needed all security measures signed off by the United States Secret Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The local Nassau County police department coordinated the deployment of more than 1,000 police officers. Dedrone also works with Suffolk County to provide drone detection to their local prison, which has been concerned with contraband deliveries onto their grounds.

State and local Governments are innovators for developing and enacting drone regulations

The National League of Cities published the first drone municipal action guide, “Cities and Drones” in 2016 to give insight to local governments on the emerging threats of unmanned aerial systems. In this, they provide how cities can integrate federal law in to their current city programs. The FAA provides authority of state and local officials to pass laws that may touch upon drone operations, noting “laws traditionally related to state and local police power—including land use, zoning, privacy, trespass, and law enforcement operations—generally are not subject to Federal regulation.” Here’s a couple of cities that are spearheading drone regulations and programs:

  • San Diego’s city council will be holding a vote on April 10, 2017 to create a regulation that would give local police new authority to cite reckless users of drones while also requiring the users to obey temporary flight restrictions during emergencies or special events.
  • Miami City Commission passed an ordinance in the Miami City Code titled “Public Safety and Unmanned Aircraft Systems Commonly Known as Drones,” setting requirements and prohibitions “intended to promote public safety and protect people attending large venue public events.”
  • In February 2017, the city of Seattle successfully prosecuted their first case of drone negligence, resulting in physical injury. The operator of a 2 lb., $1200 drone, was filming a parade, and lost control of the drone, which struck a bystander in the head. The victim suffered a concussion. After a four-day trial, the pilot was found guilty and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

For additional reference, Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism provides additional information on local government drone regulations and proposals for unmanned aerial systems at the county and municipal levels.

No matter the type of fence on the ground, there needs to be one in the skies

Whether your neighbor puts up a white picket, wrought iron, bamboo or wood fence, they exist for the same reasons: to protect property from trespassers, and to indicate property lines. Now, any enterprise, family or concerned local government needs to consider integrating an aerial equivalent, as drone activity begins in our backyards, streets and parks.

Joerg Lamprecht

About Joerg Lamprecht

Joerg Lamprecht is the CEO and co-founder of Dedrone, a security company which developed the world’s first software to detect drones and protect high-value airspace from drone threats. He can be reached at joerg.lamprecht@dedrone.com.

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