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Recently, there has been a lot of discussion regarding drone activity in and around Kayenta.  Most of the comments included reference to concerns for privacy.  Others made reference to owning or using a drone and the benefits they provide.  The Shonto BOD recently hired an attorney, at considerable expense, to determine the actual laws in place and what our options might be for regulating drone activity if that's what we, as a community decide to do.

Here's what we learned...

 


 

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or Drones, fall into one of two categories, private & commercial.  The federal government considers commercial drones (Amazon, Dominoes, Google, etc) exempt from regulations as they are in the same category as UPS, FedEx or DHL.  These are public 'delivery modes' and although they have specific criteria to meet and licensing requirements, their access to communities such as ours cannot be restricted.  Private (or Hobby) drones can be regulated and are discussed in more detail in the following sections.

For the source of information from the FAA rules regarding 'model aircraft', click here https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/model_aircraft_spec_rule.pdf

Federal, State & Local regulations:

Federal (FAA)drone2

In 2007, the FAA issued a policy statement regarding drone operations, and specifically noted that drones fall within the definition of "model aircraft" for purposes of F AA governance.

In 2012 President Barack Obama signed into law the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012- Public Law 112-95- which, among other things, created a "special rule for model aircraft".

Section 336 explicitly prohibits the FAA from adopting "any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft if the following requirements are satisfied:

Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstaclesKeep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all timesRemain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operationsDon't fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flyingDon't fly near people or stadiumsDon't fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbsDon't be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft

State (Utah)

In 2014, a joint resolution authorized by the Utah House of Representatives and Senate empowered a committee to study the commercial and recreational use of drones. To date, there are no updates or recommendations of the committee available and there is not any legislation in Utah.

Local (Ivins)

As far as we could see, Ivins does not have any regulations surrounding 'drones' specifically, but as they fall into the category of model aircraft, all of those rules (above) do apply.

drone3In Kayenta

According to our attorney, an association could prohibit the operation of drones altogether within the common areas of the association's development, as the association, through its board of directors, has the power to adopt rules and regulations for the use of the common areas.  The only problem is that we can only regulate our resident's behavior, not the general public.  Homeowners and our guests would be required to follow the rules, but we have no authority to enforce them on the public.  The best we could do would be to post "No Drone Zone" signs at the entrance to our community, and hope that people respect this request.

However, there are a number of considerations before doing so.

    1.      We do not own all the roads in Kayenta and our rules would not apply to those public roads.
    2.      We do not own the airspace above us, nor do we control 'Hellhole' or the red rock mountain behind us.  All of those areas would not be subject to our rules and regulations and would be unenforceable.
    3.      We are told that Kayenta Development Inc. uses drones to identify and mark lot boundaries, and subdivisions within our community.
    4.      We are aware of a number of builders who use drones to show new homes being constructed in Kayenta to the owners who live out of state.
    5.      Some of our own residents have drones and we would be infringing on their freedom to enjoy their chosen hobby.
    6.      The largest problem of all is enforcement.  Even if we pass a resolution to ban drones, how does the HOA (or anyone for that matter) enforce such a rule?  What good does a rule do, if it cannot be enforced and there are no consequences?

While we as a Board are sensitive to the concerns of noise, privacy and intrusion into our community and lives, we need to be sure to balance those concerns with the reality of the situation.

While some find drones offensive and intrusive, others find them enjoyable and beneficial.

drone4 Interestingly, the governments of Australia, China, France, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland have all begun testing mail and product delivery using drones.  Even the USPS has been testing "Horsefly"; their parcel delivery service since 2015.

drone5Alternately, some people have made reference to 'shooting them down'.  Unfortunately, you can't bring drones down just because you think they're a nuisance, even if they're invading your privacy.

This action is both dangerous and illegal.  It is a federal offence to interfere with an aircraft and carries a stiff fine (up to $250,000) and /or a 20 yr. prison term. (federal law 18 USC -32)

There is a company that has created an "Anti-Drone Beam Gun" however it is neither legal nor available for sale.  It uses a radio beam to jam the drone's control system and disables the drone midflight.   However, this action too, qualifies as committing a federal crime.

This issue is not going to go away.  In fact, we believe it will become more relevant in the years to come.  Federal regulations in the US currently ban flying drones in National Parks, near airports, schools, churches, stadiums and power stations.  Municipalities have much more authority and a greater ability to enforce laws than we do, and yet drone activity around airports continues to be a growing concern that cannot be controlled.  With enough public support, it is possible that the City of Ivins could restrict flying drones in the Red Rock areas, including Kayenta, as well.

This issue is creating responses around the world, both positive and negative and remains very controversial.  As an elected board representing the community of Shonto, our recommendation for those residents who wish to ban drones, is for individuals to contact the City of Ivins and register an official complaint.

(Shonto Board of Directors)

 

Kayenta Connection