Wide Swaths of L.A. Could Be Off-Limits to Drones Under New Proposal

The Federal Aviation Administration is taking its sweet time coming up with drone regulations.

So state legislators (Assemblyman Mike Gatto) and congressional representatives (Adam Schiff) are proposing rules of their own. They're concerned that drone hobbyists are going to fly one of their toys into a plane. Drones hovering over brush fires have already shut down aerial firefighting operations multiple times this season.

Now the L.A. City Council is getting in on the action. A recent proposal by councilmen Mitch Englander and Herb Wesson is one of the toughest we've seen.

It essentially says that hobbyist drones cannot fly within five miles of an airport in the city unless their operators receive special permission. Five miles! That's a pretty wide swath of sky.

That could mean you couldn't fly a drone in Venice. It could mean you couldn't fly a drone in Windsor Hills or even parts of Mar Vista. Even if these places include your own backyard.

If you did, you could end up in handcuffs. Really.

The folks behind this proposal want the ability to have the Los Angeles Police Department arrest you if you violate what is essentially a no-fly zone, or at least a hard-to-fly zone. According to the proposal:

 ... The Police Department (LAPD) and City Attorney's Office need to be able to charge individuals who operate UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] in a reckless or dangerous manner with a crime.

They need to.

The motion proposes that drone users "obtain air traffic control authorization to operate within five miles of any airport." It also says that fliers should only use their drones within their own "visual line of sight."

It would apply to city areas around LAX and Van Nuys Airport. You'd have to get permission to fly your toy in parts of Sherman Oaks and Reseda.

We understand the city's frustration here.

Drones could cause a jetliner to come down, bird-strike style, and none of us wants that. And those folks who interrupt firefights because they want to get pretty video of stuff burning should indeed be arrested. Legislators are working on that.

But a five-mile permission-only zone that would require already overworked air traffic controllers to let you play with your drone in your backyard is ridiculous. (Imagine the overload of air traffic requests on Christmas morning).

We have a hard time imagining LAPD patrol cops having the time to ask air-traffic controllers if a particular drone user has permission, too.

Plus, the FAA might want to assert jurisdiction when it comes to drone rules. At this point we have proposals on the local, state and federal levels that would lay down different drone-flying rules. That's a lot of red tape.

It sounds to us like maybe Englander and Wesson didn't think this one all the way through. We reached out to Englander for comment but were unable to get him on the phone.

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