Fort Wayne City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night that if signed by Mayor Henry, will require drone pilots to notify the city when they plan to fly their drones in a 500 yard horizontal radius or anywhere above a public event or within 5500 feet of the 100 block of West Main Street.
The requirement is to notify law enforcement first, not seek approval.
“We don’t approve or disapprove the flights there at all,” said Fort Wayne Police Department Lieutenant Jonathan Bowers. “We’re requiring notification of those flights. The notification process is very minimal as far as time to fill out. We’ve got it down to probably less than a minute online, and that bit of notification helps us coordinate what’s going on in the area.
Council said the idea is to give law enforcement a better way to make sure downtown events like the summer festivals are as safe as can be.
“I think this is a sensible tool,” said Fifth District City Councilman Geoff Paddock. “I think it’s a good enforcement tool by our police department and something that I think enhances public safety so folks know when they’re down at a festival or another event downtown that some of these things aren’t errantly flying around and about to hit them on the head.”
The ordinance would allow police to fine people up to $500 for not complying with the notification process or impound a violator’s drone for up to three business days
Lieutenant Bowers also said this ordinance would not interfere with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) control of the skies.
“It doesn’t change anything the FAA does,” Bowers said. “It just requires notification of flights in these two areas.”
The ordinance did not pass unanimously. Councilmen Michael Barranda and Thomas Didier both voted no. Councilman Glynn Hines abstained from voting because he was concerned about liability if someone who had notified the city of their intent to fly a drone at a major event and crashed it and hurt someone. Hines said he did not know whether the city would be liable, He said if it is, he would not support the measure. If it is not, he would support it.
With a five to two vote, the ordinance passed and will now go to Mayor Tom Henry’s desk.