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.

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