On June 29, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department (PRCR) of the City of Raleigh made an announcement on their website seeking public input on a draft policy regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in public parks. The fact that PrecisionHawk, one of the largest drone manufacturers in the country, makes their home in Raleigh makes this news even more important to follow.

The draft policy defines UAV or drone as any aircraft, which do not carry a human pilot and is controlled by radio frequency via a pilot on the ground. They include such things as remote-controlled aircraft and model rocketry, even though the latter are not controlled via radio necessarily. It is important to note that this proposed policy only covers UAVs flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

The announcement made abundantly clear that use of UAV’s for commercial, business or monetary purposes are controlled by different local, state and Federal regulations, namely the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation at the FAA. The City of Raleigh through PRCR has identified UAV flying for recreational purposes as a popular activity that is continuing to grow, and therefore intends to bring regulation to improve safety and deter incidents and accidents.

We spoke with Scott Payne, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Assistant Director for the City of Raleigh, and he mentioned that PRCR drafted the policy after researching other government policy examples and UAV advocacy organization resources such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Mr. Payne added that the draft policy identifies locations within seven parks where UAVs may be operated in accordance with the outlined operating regulations. The Parks committee, a subcommittee of the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board, invited interested citizens to comment on the draft policy during their next scheduled meeting.

This first meeting of the consultation process took place on Thursday July 13, and it was attended by about 30 people wishing to express their opinion regarding the proposed ordinance. According to Mr. Payne, about 15 of the attendees spoke. In general, their comments were supportive of the proposed legislation. Some specific associations such as the Drone Racers chapter of the city of Raleigh made specific proposals they would like to see included in the legislation.

The proposed legislation severely restrict UAV use in the large majority of Raleigh’s public areas, but the city further proposed to restrict any recreational drones with cameras to just three of the city’s 90 parks.

Even though this proposed ordinance does not affects directly commercial users, it’s important to stay vigilant on any legislation that seeks to control or regulate unmanned vehicles’ activity.