Jacksonville City Council repeals drone ordinance

Aug. 29—JACKSONVILLE — The City Council held a called meeting Tuesday afternoon that repealed the city's drone regulations, according to officials.

The previous ordinance, passed in recent years, had stated that unmanned aerial craft could not be flown over the city's police station or public parks. The city was later informed by the Federal Aviation Administration that only the agency has authority over airspace and city officials can't enact such an ordinance, according to city spokesperson Ben Nunnally.

The city held the meeting specifically to address the issue, and now that the law has been repealed, the city now must consult with the FAA to construct an entirely new code if it wishes to replace the ordinance, Nunnally said.

According to Nunnally, residents might see more and more of these ordinances pop up as drones become more prevalent.

"Drone technology, as it becomes more popular, we're kind of starting to see the intersection between that sort of wild west frontier where people could kind of do whatever. It's becoming popular enough now to where you might see more regulation as more cities and other governmental agencies want to exercise more control over their airspace," Nunnally said.

"I don't think there's been a lot of these incidents yet, so probably as more of them happen you'll start to see more discussion about whether or not to regulate that kind of thing," Nunnally said.

There are some security concerns with drone use over the city's police department and liability issues when flying over public parks, Nunnally said. He said he thought those concerns are not unfounded, however, the city doesn't have the authority to make those decisions.

Jacksonville police Chief Marcus Wood said the ordinance repeal will not touch current regulations set forth by the FAA, particularly regarding the rule against flying over the Jacksonville State University stadium on game day.

There is a temporary flight restriction (TFR) set forth by the FAA that states that drones cannot be flown within three nautical miles and within 3000 feet above ground level, one hour prior to kick off, during and one hour post game. Those three miles begin in the center of JSU Stadium, and — according to Wood — encompasses everywhere inside the city limits of Jacksonville.

This flight restriction is for any college stadium in the FBS or that can seat at least 32,000 people.

Staff Writer Ashley Morrison: 256-236-1551. On Twitter: @AshMorrison1105.