Town Board to Propose Permits for Drones

Requests to fly drones over town property have officials proposing a permit process for pilots who want to take off from and land on town property.

The Huntington Town Board scheduled a meeting for June 5 at 2 p.m. at town hall to propose a permit procedure for the operation of “Unmanned Aircraft Systems, model aircraft (small UAS) or ‘drones’ throughout the town of Huntington, including their use on Town property.”

“The town attorney’s office has recently received requests to operate drones within the borders of town property,” said Lauren Lembo, the public information officer for the town of Huntington.

“Establishing a permit process strikes a balance between allowing drone operation over those properties while ensuring that the use of drones is orderly and respectful of community standards and residents’ privacy concerns,” she said.

The process will require an operator to fill out an application that must be approved by the Huntington Town Attorney’s office. This will grant the pilot a permit that allows them to take off and land their unmanned aircraft on town property.

The application must be submitted no less than 5 days prior to the use of the drone. Pilots must provide contact information, capabilities of their unmanned aircraft, dates and times of drone usage, and the area over which the usage is proposed.

There will also be fees, but the amount has not yet been determined. Fees could be waived if the operation is for charitable, educational, public service or nonprofit purposes.

This is not the first time there  been drone regulation in Huntington. In 2015, the Huntington Town Board unanimously approved a law, sponsored by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, which stated that drone operators could not take high-resolution photos or videos over town or private property without written consent from the property’s owner.

“This legislation is cutting edge,” Cuthbertson said in 2015. “This is going to be an evolving area of the law.”

More legislation concerns drone enthusiasts, however.

“Ordinances of this nature would be devastating if they were legal and common,” said Dan Edmonson, founder and CEO of Dronegenuity. “The time and cost involved with adhering to rules such as these would be cost-prohibitive and present an enormous barrier to doing business. The drone industry as a whole is driven by the business side of the technology, and there would also be a negative impact on manufacturers and future innovation.”

Although the proposed law is for obtaining permits to take off from and land on town property, flying a drone over it presents a tricky situation.

“The town of Newton, Massachusetts recently tried to,” Edmonson said, “but the laws were struck down by a federal judge.”

The case Edmonson mentioned established that the town of Newton couldn’t impose certain regulations, such as requiring permission to fly over private property from the owner, because they are pre-empted by federal law. The Federal Aviation Administration regulates airspace and aircraft operation.

“The town of Huntington does not have regulation over the national airspace. Only the FAA has that,” said Ruben Garcia, president of Drone NY. “So they can only limit taking off and landing from town property.”

While some drone enthusiasts are against regulations, some town residents feel that more rules would provide a safer way of operating unmanned aircraft.

“I’m personally a fan of drone regulation if they meet a certain criteria such as camera and video capabilities,” said Huntington resident Dillon Hoffman. “I could see this being an issue as not only an invasion of personal privacy in residential areas by flying drones on others’ properties, but also restricted areas.”

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