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Poway bans drone flights

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POWAY, Calif. -- In a 4-to-1 vote Tuesday night, the Poway City Council approved a 45-day interim ordinance, banning the flight of drones over 75 percent of land in Poway.

Originally, a proposed ordinance brought on by Poway Mayor Steve Vaus was meant to prohibit the flying of drones over local emergencies. He voiced concern that drones would interfere with first responders and in turn put the community at risk by delaying their efforts.

On Aug. 18, Vaus detailed his proposal before the Poway City Council and the city attorney. He wanted to ban drones from flying within two miles of emergencies. Consequences for those caught included a $1,000 fine and the confiscation of the drone.

The Poway City Attorney was given two weeks to write the ordinance ahead of Tuesday night's city council meeting. The verbiage had been revised to include the banning of the operation of drones over Poway's urban wildfire interface area, which makes up 75 percent of the city.

Vaus assured the City Council that law enforcement would use discretion before applying the law to drone operators, saying the 45 days the ordinance is in effect, would buy them some time to research and perhaps revise the copy.

Some residents voiced their concerns that the law was too ambiguous and the city was too far ahead of themselves.

Tom Moore, a resident of Poway, suggested the city council let the FAA regulate drone use, instead of taking matters into their own hands.

Also redefined in the ordinance were the consequences drone operators faced if they were found breaking the law. They could still face up to a $1,000 fine, but could also face up to 6 months in jail. There is no mention of the drone being confiscated by law enforcement.

After the 45 days is up, the city attorney can present a revised copy of the ordinance after the proper research is completed. A public hearing would be held and another vote would take place.

About a month ago, the flying of personal drones hampered the firefighting efforts of K's Sandwiches in Linda Vista. Several drones also interfered with Cal Fire's efforts in the large North fire burning at the Cajon Pass along Interstate 15 in July.

Google Map for coordinates 32.962823 by -117.035865.


  • Ed

    Fox5, Why are you reporting that drone interfered with fires in Cajon Pass? No video or still images have surfaced even though many cameras were in the area and would have seen them. Anything that is unidentified or uncoordinated is being labeled a “Drone” when the reality is the pilots of those planes would not be able to see a drone of that size and positively identify what they are unless they fly extremely close to the plane/helicopter. “Drones” are not the problem every time, and the people that fly them keep getting a black eye because of the media sensationalizing the word, and blaming the RC Flyers with no proof, because it is convenient and it makes a story.

  • Matt Swinden

    I am an aerial photographer that specializes in real estate. I want to thank the Mayor of Poway for 1) Putting me out of business for 45 days, 2) Infringing on my First Amendment Rights, 3) creating a law that is not enforceable due to the fact that the City of Poway does not have jurisdiction over the airspace – that falls under the FAA and Federal Preemption over rules this law. Funny how the people who are sworn to uphold the Constitution and make laws know little of which they are supposed to be good at?

  • Stephen Mann

    49 USC § 40103 – “Sovereignty and use of airspace”:
    (a) Sovereignty and Public Right of Transit.—
    (1) The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States.

    State and local governments have considered legislation to regulate drone flight, but if challenged in court, any such laws would be considered preempted by the federal government’s intent to “occupy the field,” and therefore be invalid. By federal statute, the United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States (49 U.S. Code § 40103(a)(1)). The passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, confirms the federal government’s intent to continue to “occupy the field” of flight, thereby invalidating (through preemption) any state or local laws that purport to regulate it.

    Title 49 of the United States Code gives the FAA exclusive responsibility for the National Airspace System which starts as soon as the aircraft is airborne. Only the FAA may create a no-fly zone.

  • Cricket

    They are not drones. They are RC (radio controlled) helicopters and quadcopter. The definition of a drone is: an unmanned aircraft or ship that can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond line of sight. Any rc aircraft is not defined as a drone. So the loophole is that you can fly your rc quadcopter, and when you get in troupble, you can say that it is not legally defined as a drone.

    • Stephen Mann

      Cricket: They are drones. You can call them whatever you like, but the term “drone” is permanently affixed in the minds of the public and no childish protest from a purist will ever change that. Just as all copies are a Xerox, all sticky cellophane is Scotch Tape and all facial tissues are Kleenex. All personal UAS are drones. You can call them multi-engine counter-rotating quad configuration electric-powered model aircraft, but everyone else knows they are drones.

      • Joel

        They are still not “drones”, no matter what people want to incorrectly call them. They are radio-controlled aircraft, and should be considered as such. When it comes to legality, a city cannot say one thing and mean something else. Since all radio-controlled aircraft are not drones by definition, the city of Poway cannot mean “radio-controlled aircraft” when saying “drones”, even if the majority of lay-persons want to incorrectly refer to quad-copters as drones.

  • Mike Carr

    This is total bull crap!!!! I live in Poway and fly regularly around here, I had no idea they were voting on this or else I would have voiced my opinion. This is an overreach by our elected officials.

    • Stephen Mann

      Small UAVs do not pose any significant risk to people or the National Airspace System. “Dangerous” and “invasion of privacy” concerns are ridiculous, driven by paranoia borne of ignorance. There is absolutely no factual evidence to support the fear of personal drones. It appears that the Poway Mayor has fallen into the trap of fear mongers who have no basis of fact. There are more than 200 businesses flying drones legally in California, with permission from the FAA (with a Section 333 exemption), and one of them will invariably take a job in Poway completely unaware of this illegal law. Poway’s jurisdiction of flight will be challenged and Poway will lose.

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