Carson City considers how to monitor drones

The Open Space Advisory Committee has decided to take a wait-and-see approach to drones.

At its meeting Monday, the committee discussed whether Carson City needed to regulate the use of unmanned area vehicles by hobbyists and commercial operators in open space areas.

Drones are already regulated by federal and state law, but concerns remain about privacy and safety and, especially in open space areas, wildlife and wildfire.

“I don’t see how drones fit in with recreation,” said Committee Member Donna Inverson. “I do think we need some kind of ordinance because if we don’t have it we don’t have an answer.”

Tim Rowe, Carson City Airport manager, outlined for the committee federal regulations overseeing drones.

For hobbyists, for example, the aircraft can’t weigh more than 55 pounds, and must be flown below 400 feet and not flown over people.

Drones used for commercial purposes, such as photography or mapping, must be operated by a licensed pilot.

The state, too, has statutes covering their use. Drones can’t be flown within 5 miles of an airport or within 500 feet horizontally or 250 feet vertically from a critical facility without written consent.

In addition, prison inmates, who sometimes work in open space areas, can’t be photographed.

“The goal was to talk about it and get a sense of what is appropriate use,” said Committee Member Alan Welch, who requested the item be put on the committee’s agenda.

City staff said requiring permits to use UAVs over open space to, for example, photograph or monitor special events such as the upcoming Epic Rides bike race might be one way to manage the aircraft’s use.

While more than 500 dangerous incidents involving drones have been reported nationwide recently, Carson City so far hasn’t had any problems.

Because of that, and existing law, the committee decided to wait.

“We have state statute and (Federal Aviation Administration) regs and to date we haven’t really had problems,” said Committee Chair Bruce Scott. “My tendency on things like this is to say let’s monitor it, see if we have a problem and see if we need to add a layer to regulations that already exist.”

The committee voted unanimously to take no action and continue to monitor the use of drones.

The committee also approved a cash allocation of $50,000 to serve as match for an application for a $1.3 million grant from the Bureau of Land Management Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act Program.

The grant will be used for trails improvements around Silver Saddle Ranch and Buzzy’s Ranch, in part because BLM cut short by five months the deadline for applying for the grant and the trails project was ready to be submitted in short order.

During public comment, Dan Greytak, who served on the Carson River Advisory Committee, said trails planned along the Carson River’s southeast bank would be harmful.

“We need to reserve some habitat,” said Greytak. “We need some space on the river for conservation.”

But the application is due April 29, and still needs the go ahead from the Board of Supervisors, so the committee had to decide whether to approve the application with the work as presented.

Ann Bollinger, natural resource specialist with the parks department, said because the deadline was cut short the city could submit a conceptual design that could be reduced in scope if it was decided to nix some trails.

The committee decided to approve the grant application and $50,000 allocation with the condition money would be returned if not all of the trails were worked on.

The committee also approved a partnership with the Jazz and Beyond month-long festival to host one event at Silver Saddle Ranch in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Quality of Life Initiative.

The day is planned Aug. 7 from 3-8 p.m. and is going to feature three to four musical acts, a food truck and possibly other events such as 4H demonstrations, said Cherie Shipley, who’s working with the festival.

The committee also approved an additional $9,000 in seasonal hours to convert one summer maintenance position to a part-time trails coordinator position and $36,000 to purchase a new truck when it recommended the 2016-2017 fiscal year budget for the Quality of Life Open Space account for the supervisors’ approval.


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