The Palm Beach drone laws adopted last June are illegal, town officials now realize. Finding that the FAA claims sole jurisdiction over the airspace, the Town Council will have to rescind or rewrite the regulation, which all but outlawed recreational drones in their town.
The town ordinance says that drone operators may not fly within town limits without a special permit or an exemption. The permits would be allowed only for educational, environmental or commercial purposed; no recreational permits would be issued. Exemptions were designed for law enforcement.
Drone operators and representatives from the AMA, an FAA sanctioned organization for recreational model aircraft flyers, quickly reacted to the new laws; and the Town Council – who apparently had not read or received the FAA’s fact sheet about federal preemption prohibiting local government from regulating airspace – discovered that their ordinance was unlawful.
“There have been some concerns expressed to us from the community that uses these type of devices,” the Palm Beach Daily News reports Deputy Town Manager Jay Boodheshwar told the Ordinances, Rules and Standards Committee last week. “One of the errors that we made in this ordinance that exists today is regulating the actual usage of the air space. We have no jurisdiction to do that. We can regulate taking off and landing, but not flying.”
The Palm Beach Town Council has asked their staff to do more research and to present an updated recommendation in November.
The Palm Beach Daily News says that Matt Swinden, senior photographer with Mediamax Inc., wrote a letter to the town calling the law a “business killer:” “This is a bad law based on nothing but fear … all because you believed the hype and hysteria of the use of drones,” he wrote. “Ordinance 08‐2016 needs to be vetoed before the town winds up in Federal Court on a First Amendment issue.”