Photo courtesy Parrot
St. Bonifacius might be the first Minnesota city to pass an ordinance restricting the use of unmanned aircraft.
This isn’t about big military style unmanned aircraft, since the city doesn’t have authority to regulate them. It’s more about the kind of small aircraft like the one in the photo above, which can be flown with a phone or iPad and collect high quality photos and video.
St. Bonifacius Mayor Rick Weible says he’s not opposed to drones in principle. Weible says he would jump at the chance to buy a small remotely piloted aircraft with an infrared camera to assist firefighters in the community of 2,300 west of Minneapolis, as they search burning buildings for trapped victims.
But Weible says the city council didn’t see enough leadership on the issue at the federal or state level.
“When I look at the potential uses of drones, I have an obligation to my residents to defend their fourth amendment rights,” he said.
The St. Bonifacius ordinance says law enforcement must have a warrant to use small drones flying below 400 feet. Weible says drone use could also be allowed in emergency situations.
Current federal regulations already restrict commercial use of unmanned aircraft, so law enforcement needs a special permit from the FAA to use a drone.
But the St. Bonifacius ordinance also restricts private citizens. Under current FAA rules, private citizens can fly a small remotely piloted aircraft under 400 feet with few restrictions.
Weible says private citizens can now fly only on their own property, and can’t use surveillance equipment.
He says he knows of a couple of residents in town who have the small
remote control aircraft, including one with a camera that has flown around the town taking pictures.
Weible says the city also passed a resolution asking the state to impose a two-year moratorium on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
“So that we can actually look at this from a state perspective and a local perspective to kind of look at what is the right use of these. This is a new tool. We just need to sit down as a society and figure out the best way that we can use these. ”
Weible says the purpose of the ordinance is as much to spark a public debate in Minnesota as to actually restrict drones in the city of one square mile.
Read the resolution and ordinance-