The Drones Win in Ferndale as Council Quashes Ban Idea

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(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 27, 2015)

“Drone Gate” is over. After about a dozen quad-copter enthusiasts showed up at Ferndale City Council to oppose a ban on drones, council decided to drop the idea.

“I will wait for the FAA and the state. We’ve got a regular Drone Gate going on here. I think we need to educate ourselves a little further,” said Councilperson Mike Lennon before suggesting that council hold off until the feds and state worked out their rules.

The issue was originally placed on the consent agenda, the portion of the meeting where items are considered routine and generally not further discussed. News of the ban spread over the weekend and people turned out to have their voices heard.

Nate Bezanson of i3 Detroit was among those who touted the innovative nature of the Ferndale Judy_Palmer30yearscommunity. “We have 130 members who are stakeholders in this,” Bezanson said. “When we moved out of our old building we chose Ferndale as our home because we saw Ferndale as progressive place for innovation.”  Speaking on regulating drones, he said “It’s a complex issue. The FAA’s still working on it.”

Bezanson said the inventors who use the i3 space for creation have used drone technology to help them win national competitions for the work done in their shared creative space.

Harry Arnold of Detroit Drone spoke of the 400 members who use drones, and his willingness to help. “We want to avail ourselves if you decide to form a study group if you want to integrate the technology into the lives of your residents,” Arnold said. “I would urge you not to crush the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship… It would kind of make Ferndale stick out if they approve a ban.”

Councilperson Greg Pawlica had asked the City Attorney to create an ordinance that was heard dickeys_graduation_ad_ferndaleby the ordinance committee. “A couple of incidents happened in our parks that residents brought to my attention and had concerns over public use of drones,” he said.

While privacy and risk to property have oft been cited in discussion on the ban, the people who came addressed those issues.

“It’s a really bad device to spy with,” said Jonathan Hare. “It’s not really loud but it makes a buzz and you can’t really sneak up on someone with it.” He also noted that the cameras are generally not very good. Hare has been into model planes and helicopters since he was a kid. Now as an adult he does engineering for Ford Motor Company and enjoys sharing the hobby with children. seed06_kat_bruner_jamesHe said it was hard “hearing this wholesome activity being discussed in a criminal way.”

Others brought their drones with them, with many being lighter and less dangerous than a Frisbee.

The item was pulled from the consent agenda for discussion and ultimately was not voted on due to lack of support.

“We really take resident concerns seriously. I applaud you [Pawlica] for listening to residents, but free the drone,” said Councilperson Melanie Piana. She said that many of the concerns Candlewickshop_May2014seemed related to drones people hear about on the news or see in the movies. “I think a lot of pop culture is fueling the fear. I think we should take a step back and see what the FAA does,” she said. She also said that looking at what other communities do would be important.

“I’ve been proud of Ferndale because we try to give Ferndale more rights,” said drone-owner and videographer Keith Dalton, “not to take them away.”

The FAA has been in a two-year process to create regulations for drones and other unmanned aviation devices. Those regulations are expected to be released in the next few months.

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