Rancho Mirage, California considering strictest anti-drone ordinance in the US

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(Image credit: roland/Flickr)

Source: End The Lie

The Rancho Mirage City Council could pass an ordinance that would be by far most restrictive of any in the United States, even banning the use of recreational drones in residential areas.

If passed, Rancho Mirage, California would join Charlottesville, Virginia and Seattle, Washington in restricting drone use along with the some 30 states considering anti-drone legislation.

There has even been talk of anti-drone action at the federal level, all in an attempt to push back against the massive rise of drone use in the United States by countless entities both public (ranging from US Marshals to law enforcement to the National Guard to the Department of Homeland Security to the military and more) and private (from potential use by media outlets to colleges and universities to commercial operators of all kinds).

While the vote on the proposal was delayed, according to My Desert, it is still quite noteworthy due to its highly unusual focus on the use of drones over residential neighborhoods.

“I didn’t find any ordinance such as this adopted by any municipality in the United States,” said the plan’s author, City Attorney Steve Quintanilla.

However, as My Desert points out, there was also a bill introduced in the Texas legislature which seeks to ban both possession and use of images of private property captured by drones without the permission of the property owners.

The proposed ordinance in Rancho Mirage would entirely ban the flying of “unmanned aircraft that can fly under the control of a remote pilot or by a geographic positions system (GPS) guided autopilot mechanism” up to 400 feet above residential zones.

Drones flying higher than 400 feet fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration.

While cameras are currently not covered in the proposed ban, they could be added, “But some of the cameras can be pretty small and hard to see, so that could be difficult to enforce,” according to Quintanilla.

“Law enforcement is a whole different issue,” Quintanilla said, adding that he never considered an expansion of ban to cover other matters. “This is an issue of privacy between neighbors.”

Currently, according to Quintanilla, there is nothing on the books to stop brazen invasions of privacy or even “to stop a sex offender from using a drone to search for prey,” as My Desert put it.

“Technically, people can use these things to tape people’s homes and backyards and put it on YouTube,” Quintanilla said, according to USA Today.

Interestingly, all of this stemmed from a complaint from Steve Sonneville, who works out of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California.

A neighbor flew their quadrotor drone some 50 feet above him while he was relaxing in his backyard and while his neighbors were very cooperative once he explained his concerns, Sonneville later emailed the mayor to voice his concerns.

Rancho Mirage Mayor Steve Hines, who received a drone as a gift and has used it in his backyard and in Joshua Tree National Park, said that he thinks the language in the draft ordinance may be too broad.

“I think individuals should be able to use their own property and perhaps common areas of communities to enjoy the technology with their families,” Hines said. “Where one crosses the line is by infringing on the privacy of others.”

Discussions surrounding the drone issue will continue until the city council’s first meeting in May.

What do you think? Should drones be banned entirely? Let us know on our Facebook page, via Twitter or in the comments section of this post.

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