Poway approves first-of-its-kind drone law - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Poway approves first-of-its-kind drone law

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POWAY (CBS 8) - On Tuesday, the Poway City Council voted on a first-of-its-kind law restricting drone flights over the city.

The Poway City Council voted 4 to 1 - with John Mullin voting no - to ban drones from flying over 75-percent of the city. 

The original plan was to restrict drone flights close to wildfires, but the new ban that was passed Tuesday night in Poway, covers three-quarters of the city. 

Poway's mayor pushed for the ordinance after recent incidents involving drones interfering with firefighting aircraft during wildfires. He said he realized the newly passed ordinance is not perfect, but he wanted something now before fire season is at its peak. 

A map of the proposed no drone zone in Poway outlines a zone that covers about 75-percent of the city.

Mayor Steve Vaus originally pushed for just banning them within a two mile radius of any wildfire, but said in order to get this ordinance on the books as quickly as possible, the current proposed ordinance is the only way.

"The Santa Ana season is on us, which means higher fire risk season, and we needed to be able to act quickly," said Mayor Vaus.

If approved by the council, Mayor Vaus said Poway would be the first city in the state to pass a law like the one being pushed forward.

In 2015 alone, drones have been reported flying and interfering with crew efforts to fight major fires more than a dozen times.

Violators face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail; however, critics fear the law may go too far.

Mearon Okonsky runs Hummingbird Systems, a company that uses drones for site scans. He fully supports banning drones near wildfires, but said banning them all together could be a problem.

"The fear is that this can escalate into more and more legislation," said Okonsky.

"This is not the perfect ordinance. We are not going to use this like a hammer, and say you can't play with your drone in your driveway. You won't see us enforce this unless we have a wildfire and someone is interfering with first responder efforts," said the mayor. 

The ordinance will remain in effect for 45 days, and then once that time is up, the council will either renew it or revise it.

The drone ban is now a first-of-its-kind in California. 

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