The Vail Town Council will review first reading of an ordinance that would regulate the use of unmanned aircraft systems, or more commonly called UAS or drones, within the town at its regular evening session on Tuesday, April 19. The discussion of Ordinance No. 6 is listed as action item 6.4 on the meeting agenda which begins at 6 p.m. in the Vail Town Council Chambers with opportunities for public comment.
Consideration of the UAS ordinance follows an earlier discussion in which Town Attorney Matt Mire and Police Cmdr. Craig Bettis presented an overview of federal regulations as well as the lack of clarity regarding local government’s authority in providing a safe, regulatory framework for the operation of drones.
Due to the ambiguity of local control, the town staff has recommended adoption of regulations consistent with the Federal Aviation Administration’s existing requirements for the operation of model aircraft and the FAA's proposed rule for small UAS. The ordinance proposes to regulate drones only in low altitude airspace, and specifically below the navigable airspace threshold of 500 feet and the maximum flight height for model aircraft of 400 feet.
Under federal law, the operation of model aircraft for hobby or recreational purposes that meets federal criteria is exempt from FAA regulation. Therefore, the operational regulations in the proposed Town of Vail ordinance apply only to the hobby or recreational use of drones, and do not apply to the use of drones for commercial purposes. The ordinance does, however, contain a provision prohibiting the use of drones for any commercial or business purpose within the town boundaries without all necessary FAA authorizations or registrations.
In addition, the proposed Town of Vail ordinance goes a step further than federal law and allows the town to prohibit the use of drones from within or above town property, including parks and open space. This is consistent with the town's authority as a property owner. Lastly, the ordinance does not attempt to regulate other aspects of drone use, such as use by emergency services agencies of the town or other governmental entity or privacy considerations surrounding the use of drones.
View the proposed ordinance online or to comment in advance of the meeting, email the Vail Town Council at email@example.com. For questions, contact Cmdr. Craig Bettis at 970-479-2352. Town of Vail ordinances require two readings for adoption, including a public hearing.