By Kenneth Lipp
Councilman Jim Kenney has sponsored a bill that has been read before the Public Safety Committee of the Philadelphia City Council proposing the addition of a new chapter to the City Code, “to regulate the use of unmanned aircraft systems, and create penalties for improper use of said systems.”
The proposed ordinance would prohibit certain civilian and public agency uses for unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs or drones, and establish regulations under which the Philadelphia Police Department may employ the technology.
The bill forbids using a drone to conduct surveillance of a person or a person’s home without that person’s written consent, and bans the operation of UAVs above or near “gatherings.”
Police would be permitted to operate drones under the following conditions
- To conduct surveillance that would not require a warrant if conducted by a manned aircraft
- If the agency first obtains a search warrant authorizing the use of the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system.
- To facilitate the search for a missing person.
- To facilitate operations of the Philadelphia Fire Department during a fire.
- To photograph or video record public gatherings on public land.
Penalties for violating the new law could include up to 30 days imprisonment and a $1000 fine, as well as forfeiture of the aircraft.
Currently there are few regulations for amateur UAV pilots in Philadelphia to fly below 400 feet. Commercial operation of a drone requires a permit and license.
Here’s a pretty cool video of a drone hobbyist’s flight in Palumbo Park