Council, May 13, 2019

By Jim Sack

In short, the new ordinance passed out of committee last night by council wants drone pilots to register their vehicles. Safety was the reason cited by representatives of local government, the fear that a five-pound drone, or much bigger, will drop from the sky and kill someone. Fines were attached to the ordinance which prompted objections from suburban councilman Russ Jehl. He feared some kid might face a $500 fine for some minor infraction, and then call him to fix the ticket. Well, here are some thoughts. If some kid is flying his drone over a ballgame and it lands on someone’s head that kid and family will probably face a judge to determine damages, so the fine is an attention getting that will pale in comparison to a claim for injury or death.

And out-of-control drones are a concern. Pat Stelte, the producer of the council meetings on behalf of public access TV, reminded me that the downtown area is congested with RF signals from all sorts of communications devices. They confuse messages from the drone hand controller to the flying drone making the oversized mosquito apt to fall from the sky on your head. So, instead of requiring hard hats for all downtown where the greatest concentration of people and vehicles are found, the administration logically decided to send a message to drone operators: register.

The other matter of significance on last night’s rather bland agenda was a $6 million contact for the last phase of the huge sewer tunnel under the city. The resulting work will close Rudisill at Broadway at the entrance to Foster Park for a year. June 2019 to September 2020. Barricades will be up on neighborhood streets to reduce cut through drivers, including the 18-wheelers that climb curbs and rumble through leafy side streets.