Orlando joined the growing list of cities and counties that are regulating the use of drones, or UAVs — unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Federal Aviation Administration also regulates drone use, but not to the extent that satisfied city commissioners.
The new rules outline permit fees that start at $20 per event, or $150 per year, and fines of between $200 and $400 for violators. Those caught by police operating drones while under the influence of alcohol or drugs could be arrested and jailed.
The devices, some as big as a suitcase, others as small as a drink coaster, can travel up to 100 miles per hour.
For Abel Almaguer, of the “Roto Racers” club, racing drones is a hobby. He thinks the new ordinance is too restrictive.
“That type of language should be looked at, should be changed to make it easier for us and for the police officers that are going to be responding to the calls that they get from the citizens,” Almaguer said.
Drone use will be restricted around major venues and public parks, during events with large numbers of people and near schools.
The city calls it a public safety issue and would not regulate drones on private property or in backyards.
“We are not anti-drone,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said during the second and final public hearing on the issue Monday afternoon.
The mayor and commissioners expressed the need to protect the public and prevent invasion of privacy around people’s homes. But people who spoke against the ordinance said it was trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
Those comments included the following from some of the half-dozen speakers: “This law would prohibit flying in the only areas we have left,” and “Drones don’t hurt anybody,” and “It (the ordinance) hinders the growth and development of the industry.”
But ultimately, commissioners unanimously passed the new ordinance. That worries owners of businesses that sell drones, including the owner of Colonial Photo and Hobby.
Steve Rausch told a local news station sales have been dipping since more local governments have been discussing, or proposing, regulations of the devices that are popular with professional and amateur photographers, hobbyists and real estate agents who use them to gain aerial views of properties for real estate listings. But Rausch said, mostly, parents are worried the devices could be grounded and steering their kids away from them.
“Sales were very high. Everybody wanted one. And then, when they started talking regulations, parents decided that they wanted to put a hold on (purchasing) them until they were able to figure out if they would be able to fly them or not to be able to fly them. So sales did kind of tank,” Rausch said.