Hamilton council approves new drone legislation, may adjust it soon

Hamilton’s drone, purchased a few years ago, takes off at Joyce Park. The machine make it much faster for electric crews to search for wires that are down after storms, and has other benefits. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF
Caption
Hamilton’s drone, purchased a few years ago, takes off at Joyce Park. The machine make it much faster for electric crews to search for wires that are down after storms, and has other benefits. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF

Drone professionals, hobbyists, urged more consideration before passage.

After hearing this summer from a man who said some in his neighborhood were harassed by someone flying a drone, Hamilton City Council approved legislation Wednesday to outlaw voyeurism using the automated flying machines.

Council unanimously approved the legislation, despite concerns expressed by people who fly drones as professionals and as hobbyists. Rather than waiting to evaluate concerns expressed by the drone pilots, council members approved the ordinance, and said they can adjust it later if necessary, perhaps in the coming weeks.

A longtime city resident recently told council a man was using a drone to peer into windows, flying over children playing in yards and chase a young woman down the street. Council, concerned that police found themselves unable to file charges, pledged to work quickly to make such acts illegal.

ExploreHamilton to consider law against drone voyeurism, other flying acts

Between the council’s consideration at a previous meeting and the one Wednesday, city Law Director Letitia Block made changes that the elected officials approved as their second reading.

The Drone Service Providers Alliance urged the council to make further changes to its ordinance.

“We understand your residents’ concerns, and do appreciate you removing parts from the first reading, however, there is a litany and likely unintended consequences if you pass this along as a second reading,” the DSPA wrote, according to a verbal reading of the message at the meeting.

Chad Hankins of Tamarack Aerial Services in North Olmsted, Ohio, made the trip to request more consideration. Many of the issues the city is trying to address already are covered by federal laws and other requirements under laws for drone operators, he said. He noted commercial drone pilots undergo federal background checks.

Mayor Pat Moeller told Hankins, “We had a situation where a drone operator was really terrorizing a neighborhood, and this is not a ban on drones. We’re just looking for the appropriate use of them.”

It’s not intended to affect those who use drones for legal commercial uses or legitimate hobbyists.

One such local hobbyist, Justin McCollum, said he completely supported protections for citizens but said he believed the legislation could be streamlined “to get a good, clean law,” that wouldn’t discourage people, like those who have attended successful Hamilton drone events in the past, from visiting.

Hankins told city officials the Federal Aviation Administration can investigate inappropriate drone use.

Council Member Eric Pohlman, responding to the drone pilots’ concerns made a motion that the council table the matter until its Oct. 13 meeting to more fully consider amendments that could be made. Nobody seconded his motion. Pohlman said he especially was interested to know how quickly the FAA could respond to a drone voyeurism complaint.

Pohlman voted with the majority after being assured the legislation can be improved in the near future if that seems warranted.

“We can edit as soon as the next council meeting,” Block said.