The DJI Phantom 2 Vision drone. Photo courtesy of Capricorn4049/Wikimedia.

ITHACA, N.Y. — A committee of the Tompkins County Legislature met Tuesday to discuss a proposed bill that would regulate the private use of drones in the county.

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Here are six elements of how the proposal would work under the draft bill, according to county officials:

1 — Under the new regulation, drones “could not be flown or used in any location that interferes with an owner’s reasonable use and enjoyment of the property.”

2 — Drones could not be flown within less than 150 feet above a private property owner’s land or “any structure on that land” without permission because doing so “would be presumed to interfere with the owner’s use and enjoyment of the property,” according to a news release.

3 — Similarly, drone operators would similarly be forbidden from taking photos and audio/video recordings inside or outside a private residence without the owner’s permission if doing so would “interfere with a private property owner’s reasonable expectation of privacy.”

4 — Law enforcement and other municipal authorities would be exempt from these restrictions.

5 — Drones would also be prohibited from flying over the Tompkins County Jail, any other correctional facility and over any other area closed to the public by law enforcement.

6 — Additionally, drone owners seeking to fly over “any stadium, mass gathering, or open-air assembly of people” would need a private owner’s written consent to do so.

The DJI Phantom 2 Vision drone. Photo courtesy of Capricorn4049/Wikimedia.

Here were some of the reactions of the Tompkins County legislators to the draft regulations, according to a news release:

1 — Legislator Dave McKenna worried that the local regulations would interfere with model aircraft hobbyists, particularly young people.

2 — Legislator Glenn Morey also said that he would be “willing to wait for the FAA before approving new local regulations.” (A news release states that the federal government may soon issue regulations on drone usage.)

3 — Committee Chair Dan Klein, who has been leading the effort, said the most important part of the proposed law is to protect private property owners’ rights, according to the news release.

“Without a law, I can do nothing,” Klein said.


The proposal will be taken up again by the committee next month.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.