Injunction Opens Park Airspace to Drones in Michigan County

The rules surrounding the use of drones on Genesee County park land have been altered following a court ruling. The ruling allows operators to fly the devices in accordance with federal and state laws.

by Ron Fonger, MLive.com / February 18, 2020
A drone task force from Superior Township pilots DJI Inspire drones to assist other dsepartments at an oxyacetelyne fire that burned a pole barn in Green Oak Township Thursday, April 25 2019. TNS

(TNS) — Genesee County, Mich., has dropped its local rules on the possession or use of drones on park land, but an official says there are still concerns about how the change could affect other park users.

Genesee Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah granted an injunction Monday, Feb. 10, forbidding enforcement of the county’s old drone ordinance, a ruling tied to a lawsuit filed by the Michigan Coalition of Drone Operators.

Soon after Farah’s ruling, the park system added an amendment to its rules, allowing unmanned aircraft as the injunction required, but specifying specific no-fly zones, including Thread Lake and Chevy Commons.

Now, after members of the Parks & Recreation Commission met with their attorney Thursday, Feb. 13, the rule on drones was changed to allow them “so long as the operation is in accordance with federal and state laws and does not violate any criminal laws.”

County Board Coordinator Josh Freeman said parks officials enacted rules initially to protect other park users from drones and to preserve the atmosphere of park land like Crossroads Village.

“The drone folks aren’t the only users of the parks,” Freeman said. “We have a pretty diverse parks system.”

Dean Greenblatt, an attorney for the drone operators, said counties don’t have the authority to restrict fly-zones like the Federal Aviation Administration does.

The initial list of no-fly areas issued by the county were “not in compliance with the court order," Greenblatt said.

In a news release on its Facebook page, MCDO has called Farah’s ruling a victory that “will likely have a nationwide impact" in states that currently have local restrictions on the operation of drones.

©2020 MLive.com, Walker, Mich. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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