Chicago Could Tighten Rules on Drones


Watch the video: Two aldermen want to control where and when you can fly a drone in Chicago. Hear from one of them, and from a business owner who could be hurt by the proposal.


Alds. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Ed Burke (14th Ward) have proposed an ordinance that would tighten restrictions on the use of drones in the city of Chicago.

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The ordinance would ban drones from flying within five miles of O'Hare or Midway airports, and operating between 8:00 pm and 8:00 am. It would also require drone operators to carry personal injury and property damage insurance, among other rules.

Ald. Waguespack joins Chicago Tonight to talk about his proposal, along with Aerial Vision Chicago co-founder Anthony LaRosa.

Watch Aerial Vision Chicago’s demo reel of aerial videography shot using drones.

Alds. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Ed Burke (14th Ward) have proposed an ordinance that would tighten restrictions on the use of drones.Alds. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Ed Burke (14th Ward) have proposed an ordinance that would tighten restrictions on the use of drones.

Ordinance explained

Under the proposed ordinance, anyone who wants to fly a small unmanned aircraft in city airspace would have to register the drone with the city of Chicago Department of Aviation. Registration information would include the make, model and serial number of the drone, as well as personal information about the owner (such as name, address, and telephone number).

Registration would be valid for one year and cost $50 annually. Within 15 days of receiving a completed registration form, the commissioner of aviation will issue an identification tag for the registered drone which would be securely attached to the drone.

In addition, drone operators would have to provide proof of insurance. According to the ordinance, insurance would provide a minimum of:

  • $100,000 for personal injury or death of one person;
  • $300,000 for personal injury or death to more than one person in one accident, with a maximum of $100,000 for each person; and
  • $50,000 for property damage.

The ordinance also establishes operating regulations, which prohibits the following:

  • Conducting surveillance (unless expressly permitted by law)
  • Flying within five miles of an airport
  • Equipping a small unmanned aircraft with a firearm or weapon
  • Intending to use a drone (or any attachments to it) to harm people or damage property
  • Flying at an altitude higher than 400 feet above ground level
  • Flying a drone outside the operator’s line of sight
  • Operating a drone while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Flying during weather conditions that would impair the operator’s ability to do so safely
  • Operating between the hours of 8:00 am and 8:00 pm

Local reaction

Anthony LaRosa is the co-founder of Aerial Vision Chicago, a production company that produces aerial photography and videography using drones. He says the ordinance’s proposed no-fly time between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm is “strange.”

Anthony LaRosa, co-founder of Aerial Vision Chicago, says fly times for drones should follow the FAA’s dusk-till-dawn rule.Anthony LaRosa, co-founder of Aerial Vision Chicago, says fly times for drones should follow the FAA’s dusk-till-dawn rule. “If you think about it a little more, during the summertime 8:00 pm is close to dusk, but it’s still light out. Then when it comes to winter, 8:00 pm is dark. What I’d propose is more of a dusk-till-dawn rule,” LaRosa said. “We usually like to shoot during sunsets or sunrises, and that changes throughout the year, so the 8-8 rule is strange. The FAA regulations are already dusk-till-dawn. We can fly anytime during the day, but obviously after dusk or before dawn we’re not supposed to fly, we’re supposed to land.”

Anyone who violates any provisions of the proposed city ordinance could be fined at least $500 or up to $5,000 for each offense. Violations could also result in incarceration for a maximum of 180 days in lieu of or in addition to fine(s). 

In addition, the mayor, superintendent of police, the commissioner of aviation and authorized enforcement officials reserve the right to seize the drone if they have “a reasonable basis for believing any small unmanned aircraft has been operated in violation of this chapter.” 

Since the drone industry is still relatively new, LaRosa says the small unmanned aircraft can be misunderstood.

“People have a misconception of what they can and cannot do. We always have people coming up and asking us how high they can fly, how far, what’s the flight time, how much weight can they carry – we get questions all over the board,” he said.

While people may worry that drones may invade people’s privacy, LaRosa says those fears are unfounded and points to the evolution of cellphones as a precedent. 

“It was the same when cellphones started getting cameras. People were very worried someone would use them in bathrooms and private places. And then as cellphones evolved, that started to go away,” he said. “People still did things they shouldn’t anyway, but there were laws already in place about surveillance or spying, anything that pertains to a regular camera. It’s the same with drones. We have a camera mounted to it, so people get scared and think it’s privacy invasion.”  

Watch Aerial Vision Chicago’s demo reel of aerial videography shot using drones.

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