Laguna Beach Cries ‘Self Defense’ With Drone Ban

Drone operators in Laguna Beach will no longer be allowed to fly their remote-controlled aircraft over city parks near beaches or over city government buildings, beginning July 13.

The Orange County Register reports,

Laguna Beach City Council members on Tuesday, May 23, unanimously approved an ordinance that they say strikes a balance between the rights of drone operators and the rights of the community to privacy and safety.

The ordinance prohibits the operation of a drone in a way that harasses or intimidates people whether they are on public or private property.

They also cannot be flown over City Hall, the lifeguard headquarters or over the police or fire department stations. They can also not hover over the city’s maintenance yard.

Drones are forbidden to interfere with emergency responders or impede a parade or motorcade, the ordinance states. Real estate agents and media photographers will be required to get permits before they can fly them, according to the ordinance.

“The ordinance allows for safe and responsible usage of drones within the city boundaries in most areas but prohibits drone usage in areas where risk to the public is greatest,” Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella said, adding she has received many complaints in the past three years. Some have come in on 911 calls.

Resident Brad Allen told the council that drones hover near his house, which is close to Victoria Beach, daily.

“When I bought the house, it had privacy unless there was a helicopter hovering nearby,” he said. “I have an outdoor shower and drones hover close by. I’ve opened the curtains to my bedroom and there’s a drone 20 feet away. I think we are taking the right steps, I don’t know where this will go in the future.”

Drone-flying is still allowed over private property and over the ocean, but harassment of marine wildlife will not be tolerated, Farinella said.

Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede suggested the council revisit whether a person could disarm a drone that came within 20 feet of them.

“I agree; it’s self-defense,” said Councilman Steve Dicterow.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires that commercial operators obtain a pilot’s license and keep the drones in their sightlines. Drones are allowed to fly no higher than 400 feet off the ground during daylight hours.

Legislation enacted in 2015 made Maryland one of only three states to grant the state government exclusive power to regulate drone usage, preempting municipalities and counties from enacting their own ordinances. MACo opposed this legislation as a preemption of county authority and was able to secure an amendment to assess the need for new laws or local tools after three years of industry maturation.

MACo, along with the Maryland State Police, are among the stakeholders charged with evaluating any safety or security problems arising from drone use as the industry expands in the years ahead. The stakeholder group will report its findings to the governor in 2018.

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