Drones

Drones have become a more familiar sight in Lincoln in recent years.

ERIC GREGORY/Journal Star file photo

City police will be able to stop drone operators who are flying recklessly, flying without proper registration and markings or flying outside of operators' line of sight under an ordinance narrowly approved Monday.

City Council members Roy Christensen and Cyndi Lamm voted against the local rules approved by a 4-2 margin, saying the ordinance was a case of over-regulation considering drones are already regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Lamm said she had received a number of emails and letters from hobby operators with concerns about the ordinance, which mirrors drafted FAA rules.

"We are just assigning our officers something else to do,” she said. "I have some real reservations about this ordinance."

Christensen suggested police could use other city laws to stop anyone flying a drone in an unsafe way or near the airport. Police might be able to use public nuisance or disturbing the peace ordinances, City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick said during the afternoon discussion.

But the local drone ordinance would have a little more teeth and give law enforcement the ability to intercede when there are unsafe situations, said Councilwoman Jane Raybould, who voted for the ordinance with Councilmen Carl Eskridge, Jon Camp and Trent Fellers.

The city's Airport Authority had asked for a city ordinance to help curb drone activity during a major airshow scheduled for early May.

The FAA doesn’t have the ability to react quickly to problems, Airport Authority staff said. You call them and two months later they call you back, Kirkpatrick said.

Violating the city's drone ordinance will be an infraction, with a $100 fine for the first offense.

A national hobbyist organization, contacted by some Lincoln drone owners, discourages cities from creating their own set of rules.

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The FAA is not keen on a patchwork of state and local laws, said Chad Budreau, with the Academy of Model Aeronautics. He noted that the Lincoln ordinance prohibits flying above 400 feet, which is just a guideline under the FAA rules.

But Budreau said Lincoln's proposed ordinance was not “extremely onerous."

"Whoever wrote that did their homework,” he added in a telephone interview.

Council Chairman Trent Fellers said he didn’t think there was any harm in passing the ordinance, then following up as federal rules governing drones evolve.

“I think it is reasonable right now," he said. "It might not be reasonable in a couple of years.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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