Proposal would ban drones from most Raleigh parks

Drone (file)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — City leaders heard from several people Thursday about proposed regulations that cut down drone use in city parks.

Raleigh park administrators want recreational drone pilots to fly in the city parks but only in seven sites.

The Parks Advisory Committee selected Baileywick, Dorothea Dix, Eastgate, Eliza Pool, Marsh Creek, Southgate, and Spring Forest Parks as recommended areas for flights. Those locations include at least one in each quadrant of Raleigh.

“They’re trying to strike the right balance for an appropriate use of the parks but also to encourage this recreational activity,” said Patrick Buffkin, Parks Advisory Committee chairman.

Raleigh’s website lists more than 80 parks in the city in total.

Four of the seven parks are near homes, and the policy could prohibit pilots from using unmanned aerial vehicles with cameras on board due to privacy concerns. The cameras would be banned at Eastgate, Spring Forest, Eliza Pool and Southgate parks.

Parks administrators say it’s not clear how that regulation would be enforced.

CBS North Carolina talked to Brenda Leggett Wednesday, who lives near Eliza Pool Park. She’s concerned about that issue and asked about it during a public forum Thursday evening.

“Actually, I’m pleased that they’re doing this. But my concern is who’s going to enforce it and patrol the area?” she asked. “Just make sure that area’s patrolled and keep an eye on the cameras that are on the drones.”

Buffkin acknowledged the challenge in doing that. “Well, it’s a difficult thing to deal with as drones get smaller and the cameras get smaller,” he said.

Shelby Voll is a professional drone racer who practices regularly at Dorothea Dix Park.

“This is my life, this is what I do for a living,” said Voll. “The concern is getting banned. I think there’s a lot of fever pitch about the negativity of drones, I guess.”

Buffkin said there is a need for some spaces to stay aircraft-free to keep other visitors safe.

“Maybe because the park is not big enough or because it’s located in a residential neighborhood, the use of drones doesn’t seem to be appropriate,” Buffkin said.

Voll said he’d like to work with the city to designate space for racing drones.

“Having a designated area is fantastic. So, having one as opposed to being outright banned, we’re just trying to make sure that is followed through,” he said.

The committee considering the regulations is scheduled to meet again Sept. 7. Buffkin said ultimately city council will vote on what regulations to approve. He said that could happen at the end of this year or in early 2018.

Read the proposed policy here.

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