Published in the May 11, 2017 edition
By BILL LAFORME
NORTH READING – Town Meeting voters will be asked to consider a new bylaw regulating the use of drones in North Reading.
At Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting, Chief Mike Murphy reported that there are currently fairly few laws on the books at the state and federal level when it comes to areas such as drones and privacy. “We’re just looking to avoid somebody using it to look into somebody’s home or their yard,” Murphy told selectmen. He also acknowledged that enforcement of the bylaw would likely not be easy, but added that “we have nothing else at this point.” Current federal operations apparently drones to operate with considerable freedom as long as they remain in the operator’s line of sight and do not exceed 300 feet.
Violations under the proposed bylaw could potentially carry a $300 fine for each violation.
The warrant article in question for June states that anybody authorized under federal law to operate an unmanned aircraft system may operate them in North Reading for any lawful purpose, if the device is operated in consistency with federal law.
Another provision specifically bans drone operation in any manner that interferes with police, fire or emergency medical personnel, as well as search and rescue personnel. Drone and model aircraft operators are prohibited from operating their devices “in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another, nor can they operate them in any way that would violate a restraining order or any other judicial order.
Under the proposed bylaw, drones operating in North Reading would also be prohibited from capturing video, photo or audio recordings of an individual in any manner violating their reasonable expectation of privacy, and operators would also be prohibited from bringing their devices (outside of takeoff and landing) within 25 feet of any individual not assisting them.
The bylaw also requires drone operators to maintain eye contact with the device at all times, with no assistance from binoculars, night vision goggles, or other such equipment. Finally, it also notes that all applicable federal aeronautics regulations apply to unmanned aircraft systems operating in North Reading.