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Drones doing no harm so far in CB; marshals willing to deal with them

Common sense comes into play

By Mark Reaman

Drones have quickly gained in popularity throughout the valley for a number of people and so far have not caused any major problems in the town of Crested Butte.

Still, in response to some citizen concerns about possible danger from a crash or potential loss of privacy if a drone takes photos of an intimate hot tub party, the Town Council discussed the situation at a May 1 work session with chief marshal Mike Reily.

Reily said he is a licensed drone pilot. He supplied the council with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules governing the use of drones but said the FAA has recognized local law enforcement officials should handle situations where local public safety issues arise.

“Drones have not been a huge problem in town thus far,” Reily said. “We have never issued a citation as a result of a drone incident. They are federally regulated as unmanned aircraft systems but if local people have a concern, they can contact us and we will send an officer out to deal with the pilot of a drone.”

Councilman Chris Ladoulis asked if there was any danger when drones were used to film major local events such as the annual Fourth of July parade.

“Common sense would dictate that,” responded Reily. “For example, flying over the buildings along Elk Avenue instead of over the crowd makes sense. We don’t want pilots to recklessly endanger people.”

“We have had some constituents express concern about drones. Do we have the tools we need to deal with them if they become a problem?” asked mayor Glenn Michel.

“I think we do,” assured Reily.

Reily relayed that FAA rules require drones to be flown at or below 400 feet; to be kept within site by the operator at all times; to not fly over groups of people and during the day; and to not be flown while the operator is under the influence.

Reily said he has had his issues while operating drones, including losing control of one near the town hall, resulting in the drone’s crash. That drone has been retired.

“If someone is operating a drone and not following the rules, we encourage people to give the marshal’s office a call and we will address the situation,” Reily said.

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