Verify: Is Sacramento County allowed to ban drones from parks?

Sacramento County's Board of Supervisors formally approved a change at their meeting Tuesday adding drones to the list of "flying model airplanes" banned from county parks. (April 14, 2017)

We're following up on a story we first reported Tuesday, when Sacramento County's Board of Supervisors voted to ban drones from county parks. 

The change took effect immediately. And it had us wondering, is the county allowed to do that? 

Here's what we found out:

Federal law gives the Federal Aviation Administration sole jurisdiction over the nation's civilian airspace, but there's no regulation or rule that addresses local drone laws. 

"Our position is that a local law that bans people from taking off or landing drones on public property probably does not conflict with the FAA’s jurisdiction," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. 

The agency also has a December 2015 guidance on state and local regulations of drones, which states that local restrictions "should be consistent with the extensive federal statutory and regulatory framework."

Here's the full guidance:

The FAA couldn't comment on the county's ordinance specifically, noting that an attorney analysis would be needed first on their end. 

We also reached out to the county. 

Head County Ranger Michael Doane said the county did not reach out to the FAA, but noted that there was already an existing ordinance prohibiting "flying model airplanes." Adding the word drone was just meant to clarify the language. 

Moreover, there are exceptions to the ban. 

For example, someone could reserve a spot in a county park for a wedding and want a professional drone pilot. 

"Then we can put restrictions," Doane said. 

To recap, the FAA does not have a hard and fast rule barring a local government, like Sacramento County, from banning drones in parks.

Bottom line, we verified that the county is allowed to ban drones from county parks. 

VERIFY: Sources

Ian Gregor, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman 

Michael Doane, Sacramento County Head County Ranger

Federal Aviation Administration, "State and Local Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems(UAS) Fact Sheet," Dec. 17, 2015 

VERIFY: Resources

READ: FAA guidance on drones

MAP: Sacramento County parks

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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