Township Researching Prohibition Of Unmanned Aircraft Over Open Space, Parks

The Open Space Advisory Committee has formed an ad hoc committee to look into regulating the use of unmanned aircraft – drones – over township-owned open space and parks.

Reports of unmanned aircraft flying over township-owned open space and parkland has prompted officials to research whether that activity can be prohibited.

Township manager Robert Vornlocker told the Open Space Advisory Committee at its Jan. 17 meeting that he has asked the township attorney to look into the matter.

There probably won’t be an answer to the question for several months because of its complexity, Vornlocker said.

“It is not as simple as saying let’s have an ordinance that says this,” Vornlocker told the committee. “There’s a lot more involved in this than that. There are commercial applications to unmanned aircraft as well as recreational.”

The issue was prompted by reports that someone was flying an unmanned aircraft – or drone – over the Negri-Nepote Native Grasslands Preserve off Skillmans Lane, said Fran Varacalli, the township’s open space consultant. The area is favored by birders, and the concern is that the aircraft will scare the birds away, or injure them.

Varacalli said that model airplanes are prohibited on open space and parkland, buy the unmanned aircraft are not classified as model airplanes, so that prohibition does not apply to them.

“Just because there’s one flying over our open space or park properties doesn’t mean it’s in violation of anything,” Vornlocker said.

Varacalli said she’d like to see a complete ban on the machines over some of those spaces.

“I personally feel that in our birding preserves it may not be appropriate,” she said. “There may be a place where we can allow it, or not.”

Vornlocker said that he and Mayor Phil Kramer attended a session about the unmanned aircraft during last year’s League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City.

“It was very, very complicated,” Vornlocker said. He said the flying of the machines also create privacy issues “because these aircraft have cameras.”

“There is the ability to regulate within your municipality, but it’s not just a two-line statement that it’s prohibited,” he said. “It was recommended that we hire a consultant.”

One problem with regulating the machines is enforcement, Vornlocker said.

“By federal law, you’re not permitted to fly them over people,” he said. “Then there comes the interpretation, define flying over people.”

“What it came down to is if one part of the drone is over any part of a person, then it’s illegal,” said Kramer, who owns drones.

Kramer suggested that one park might de designated as the official “unmanned aircraft park.”

Vornlocker told the committee not to expect an answer or recommendations on the issue until the spring or summer.

Kramer suggested that in the meantime, the committee form an ad hoc committee to look at the issue.

The committee agreed, and Kramer and members Bob La Corte, Bob Puskas, Arnold Schmidt and Bill Connell were named to the committee.


Your Thoughts


Please Support Independent Journalism In Franklin Township!

No other media outlet covering Franklin Township brings you the depth of information presented by the Franklin Reporter & Advocate. Period. We are the only truly independent media serving the Eight Villages.

But we can only do that with your support. Please consider a yearly subscription to our online news site; at $37 a year, it’s one of the best investments you can make in our community.

To subscribe, please click here.

Other News From The Eight Villages …