Key West City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley put forward an ordinance at the commission meeting Wednesday to regulate drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). If passed, the law would provide privacy and safety protections until state or federal regulations preempt the ordinance.
“I would like to have this ordinance in place for public safety prior to Fantasy Fest,” said Weekley. “Lets be proactive instead of reactive. It is also about privacy. I don’t want one over my house and seeing what is going on in my backyard.”
Drone operators spoke out against the amendment concerned it may hurt their productions and business because of the restricted areas and events. Language on the proposed amendment restricts use at any special event permitted and authorized by the city; any sporting event or practice; any school during hours of operation or activities, except for school-sponsored activities; any playground or public park when occupied; any residential or commercial area; the area commonly known as Southernmost Point; any beach within city limits; and the FAA navigational beacon near Higgs Beach.
“The proposed ordinance would prohibit flying over the entire city of Key West,” said CEO of Vivid Ariel Media, Michael Cates. “New devices can be scary, like cell phones when they first came out. But a drone is essentially an extension of a tripod.”
Ron Demes, business manager of Naval Air Station Key West, also spoke about the amendment from the military’s viewpoint.
“The FAA signs authorization before our flights. The city should consider Navy and military operations so it does not conflict with the city ordinance,” he said.
City Manager Jim Scholl said the amendments would be enforced by the Key West Police Department if passed. All commissioners agreed to postpone the agenda item to bring it back to the drawing board to find a happy medium businesses and the city can agree on.