Alabaster considering drone regulations

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, October 17, 2018

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER –Alabaster soon may enact new regulations for drones operating in certain areas of the city, as the City Council is set to hold a public hearing on the matter in early November.

The council announced during its Oct. 15 meeting it will hold the public hearing during its Monday, Nov. 5 meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. at Alabaster City Hall. Council members likely will vote on the matter the same night after holding the hearing.

If the ordinance passes, Alabaster would be among the first cities in Alabama to enact drone regulations, said City Administrator Brian Binzer. As proposed, Alabaster’s drone regulations are modeled after Orange Beach’s drone ordinance, and would be enacted in the spirit of public safety, council members said.

“Recent developments in (unmanned aircraft system) technology make it possible for drones to travel at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, to carry payloads, video cameras and other recording devices and to be operated remotely from great distances from the operator, all of which increases the potential for injury to persons and property within the city of Alabaster,” reads the proposed ordinance. “The City Council of the city of Alabaster finds that while a majority of UAS devices will be used for lawful purposes, either commercially or by hobbyists, the devices can be used to conduct unlawful or unwanted surveillance, voyeuristic or other intrusive activities.”

The ordinance also says “because UAS devices are capable of being flown over stadiums, schools and large public gatherings, such devices could bypass security checkpoints and other public safety measures designed to protect the public.”

If passed, the ordinance would not apply to a drone operator flying on their private property or in designated areas of the city such as the drone field at Veterans Park, but it would require an operator to get permission from another property owner before flying it on property the operator doesn’t own.

To operate in public areas of the city or over large events such as CityFest or the Christmas parade, a drone operator would be required to obtain a free permit from the city ahead of time.

The ordinance would prohibit a drone from carrying detachable cargo, a releasable payload or weapons, and would prohibit a person from operating a drone while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.