Breckenridge wildfire fueling efforts to pass drone restrictions within town limits | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge wildfire fueling efforts to pass drone restrictions within town limits

Breckenridge Town Council passed Tuesday a local drone ordinance on first reading that closely mirrors guidelines set out by the Federal Aviation Administration. Should the measure passes on second reading, it would give Breckenridge police the authority to enforce illegal drone flights in town.

Breckenridge Town Council unanimously supported a scaled-back version of a proposed ordinance regulating unmanned aircraft systems, more commonly known as drones, Tuesday on first reading.

The issue arose in August, a month after a July wildfire ravaged roughly 84 acres northwest of Breckenridge and there were at least two reports of drones flying dangerously close to the blaze.

The Federal Aviation Administration stands as the governing body for drones across the country, but with limited resources, the FAA is ill equipped to enforce federal drone laws, save the most egregious violations. As a result, town staff pitched the ordinance that would allow local law enforcement to police commercial and recreational drone pilots.

The initial proposal drew some blowback from a number of in-state drone pilots, who believed the town went too far with some of the provisions, such as restricting flights over specific air space Furthermore, the town attorney and drone pilots both contended that any restrictions the town might put on drones could not go beyond those spelled out in federal guidelines, without facing a possible legal challenge.

"Much of the specific language has been removed and the current ordinance focuses or reckless and careless and dangerous behavior," Shannon Haynes, assistant town manager, told council Tuesday before the vote.

The revised ordinance prohibits reckless or careless drone flights; equipping a drone with a firearm or deadly weapon; interfering with law enforcement, firefighting or other government emergency operations; using a drone for surveillance, unless permitted by law; harassing or annoying wildlife; or launching, landing or operating a drone from or on town-owned property.