“No Drone Zone”

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While it’s hard to get on top of a drone, Deadwood’s trying its best.

July 3, the city commission passed a resolution establishing community standards for drone operations within Deadwood and also heard the first reading of an ordinance regarding aviation-drone operation within Deadwood.

Deadwood Police Chief and Safety Committee Chair Kelly Fuller said that drones are an issue the safety committee has discussed as they become more widespread for civilian use.

“This is something we want to get out in front of,” Fuller said. “They are becoming more and more common, and if left unregulated, can pose a safety concern.”

Because there are a few instances where drones have been launched during Deadwood’s special events, where thousands of people gather for concerts on Main Street and in heavy traffic throughout town, police have found an ordinance governing them imperative, as drones can be modified to carry cameras, as well as weapons systems.

Resolution 2017-13 sets forth city ordinances authorize limited drone operation in city airspace for hobby and recreational purposes only and establishes community standards to be complied with in regard to drone operations as governed by the new ordinance.

The ordinance establishes a protected airspace referred to as the “Deadwood Drone No Fly Zone” in the area designated by the 1961 Historic Landmark district, as well as the Deadwood Event Complex property.

Further, it is unlawful to fly a drone in the following manner: over any person who is not involved in the operation of the drone, without their consent; over vehicular traffic; over property that the drone operator does not own without consent; by a child under 13 years of age when not accompanied by a parent; at an altitude higher than 400 feet above the ground; outside of the visual line of sight of the operator; in a manner that interferes with, or fails to give way to, any manned aircraft or moving vehicle; whenever weather conditions impair the ability to operate the drone safely; during the period between sunrise and sunset; over any open air assembly unit, school, school yard, hospital, water treatment facility, cemetery, water storage facility, law enforcement building, or place of worship without consent; for the purpose of conducting surveillance, unless permitted by law; with .08 percent or more blood alcohol content or while under the influence of any alcohol, drug, or intoxicant; that is equipped with a firearm or other weapon with intent to cause harm to person or property; or in a reckless or careless manner.

The ordinance also addresses drone construction and sets forth penalties for violating the ordinance. A violation by an adult is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by $120 to $500 per offense, 30 days in jail, or both. A violation by a minor is a petty offense. Law enforcement may also seize the drone as evidence of a violation.

“We’re not trying to prohibit them,” Fuller said. “We’re trying to say where they can fly them and what regulations are attached.”

Commissioner Mark Speirs asked if the drone issue is a big one and if there are specific instances or requests for operating drones in Deadwood.

Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Kuchenbecker said that there was a desire to use one during SnoCross, but officials couldn’t come up with an operator.

“So there have been some,” Speirs said. “They’re pretty prevalent out there.”

Mayor Chuck Turvibille said it is a good idea to pass the resolution “Before we have issues, so we have something to look at,” he said. “There are several legitimate issues for drones … they can be used in areas with public buildings and in instances where they are police chief- or fire chief-approved.”

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