PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Panama City Beach officials are proposing an ordinance that would restrict drone and aircraft use over private and public property in the city.
They held a first reading of the Aviation Ordinance during last Thursday’s meeting and it appears the city is violating Federal Aviation Administration policies regarding authority over public airspace.
The ordinance would limit the flying of any aircraft over private and public property without written permission.
It also prohibits flying drones between zero and 500 feet over private property.
“It’s a good ordinance I think it gives the police department a good opportunity to make sure people can have privacy in their own homes and on their property,” Panama City Beach Mayor Mark Sheldon said during Thursday’s meeting.
But according to the FAA, “state and local governments are not permitted to regulate any type of aircraft operations, such as flight paths or altitudes, or the navigable airspace.”
It also states that “cities and municipalities are not permitted to have their own rules and regulations governing the operation of aircraft.”
Beach officials said their reason for the ordinance is to protect citizens, but there are already laws in place to protect homeowners.
“Absolutely every state and the feds have a Video Voyeurism Law or a Peeping Tom Law, which would already make this illegal and if you think someone’s peeping on you, you have every right to call the authorities and get them to come to check that out,” Licensed Drone Pilot Garrett Coley said.
Coley completed Gulf Coast State Colleges Unmanned Safety Institute Program, he said drone pilots are taught all of the FAA’s rules and regulations on how to safely operate drones in integrated airspace.
“I honestly was just amazed that they would try to pass something like that. It is clearly in violation of FAA regulations, and they really have no legal right to do so and it would just restrict commercial pilots and hobbyists from getting any shots,” Coley said.
All commercial drone pilots are required to have a license, even hobbyists are required to register with the FAA.
“It’s just, did they do they research? Did they Google it first? It doesn’t seem like it would be a really viable restriction for drone pilots in this area. We have a lot of regulations to deal with and I don’t believe our local commissioners read any of them before trying to introduce this new restriction for drone pilots,” Coley said.
Panama City Beach city officials refused our request for an interview, but sent us this statement late this afternoon, “The City has heard the concerns from some commercial drone operators and plans to make amendments to the current draft that should allow for these professional operations to operate while protecting the privacy rights of our citizens.”
The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the next council meeting April 13.
The public will have the opportunity to comment.
The full statement from Panama City Beach officials is below:
“In February, Mayor Sheldon asked staff to present reasonable regulations on today’s high-tech drones and other aircraft in an effort to protect the City’s residents and visitors from harassment, spying, and trespass. While the FAA regulates the safe operation of aircraft throughout the nation, it has specifically left issues related to privacy, voyeurism, surveillance, and trespass to the state and local communities. With the advent of high-tech digital cameras and recreational drone usage, the City presented reasonable ideas that would prevent low-altitude flights on private property without the owner’s permission and use of aircraft on public property with the intent to conduct surveillance where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.”