Roswell is charting a flight plan toward more local rules about personal and commercial drones.
Police leadership want members of the Roswell City Council to give local police power to regulate unmanned aircraft similar to regulations federal authorities currently enforce near airports and elsewhere.
Roswell’s councilmembers are considering a new law that would give Roswell police more power to punish people who intentionally launch or land drones from city property, including parks, without permission. The change would fall under the city code section that also punishes disorderly conduct, being drunk in public, prostitution and other crimes that harm the public order.
Roswell police interim Capt. Kyle Ratliff told council members at a November meeting that he and his officers are worried about how the popular holiday gift can endanger people at crowded events, such as Alive in Roswell, a family-friendly festival the third Thursday of every month.
“At Alive in Roswell, we had numerous times drones literally within 15 feet above the crowd straight down Canton Street, which got us concerned (about) the possible terrorist threat that that creates,” Ratliff said.
The powers that police are asking for mirror the Federal Aviation Administration’s drone restrictions, which is good, said state Rep. Kevin Tanner, because regulating drones on the city level can get tricky in a hurry.
INTERACTIVE | Map: Restricted zones for drones in metro Atlanta
That’s why the Dawsonville Republican successfully sponsored legislation during the 2017-18 session that blocks municipalities from making laws about drones that are more restrictive than state law. Municipal borders aren’t easy to figure out when you’re soaring through the sky. But respect for private and public property must be upheld, Tanner said.
“We wanted to make sure we didn’t have 159 county ordinances and 500-plus city ordinances,” he said. “I think (Roswell is) meeting the spirit of the regulation.”
Roswell’s law only deals with drone landing and takeoff instead of flight patterns because the FAA controls airspace.
Chief James Conroy, who became Roswell’s top cop in July after retiring from DeKalb County Police following 30 years there, said the issue of local authorities regulating drones rose above the clouds one busy week earlier this year.
“Drones were an incredible issue at the Superbowl,” Conroy said. “We had a number of unlicensed drone operators flying within the restricted area… Prior to the FAA’s arrival during the Superbowl week, we had a very difficult time regulating those drones from what we could do.”
Roswell’s proposed law is slated for a final vote at its meeting 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Roswell City Hall, 38 Hill St.
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