City considers drone registration, restrictions in proposed ordinance

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Drone users may face new city regulations when flying their machines over Chicago. (WLS)

Drone users may face new city regulations when flying their machines over Chicago, as aldermen considered Thursday - among other things - that drone users must register and pay an annual fee.

Drones stayed grounded in City Hall chambers; despite the promise of a demonstration, operators didn't want to risk one crashing into someone. Not allowing drones to fly directly over a person or property the operator doesn't own are two restrictions that are included in a proposed ordinance that sets rules for drones.

"If government doesn't regulate certain aspects or at least doesn't attempt it, it could get out of control quickly," said Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward.

Easy to buy on Amazon, some say the use of drones by amateur users has already gotten out of control.

"There are instances of drones falling out of the sky, hitting people and those people need to be held accountable," said Colin Hinkle, Soaring Badger Productions.

Drone hobbyist Hinkle and others support flight restrictions for drones. The ordinance requires operators of the unmanned aircraft to carry insurance and register the drones with the city for a $50 fee. Flying within 5 miles of airports, near churches, schools, hospitals, and police stations are prohibited without consent, and drones are not allowed over open-air stadiums as well.

If caught, the penalties are stiff; fines are from $500 to $5,000 and up to 180 days in jail.

"This is a brand new industry and brand new activity, we are going to have to play it by ear for a while," said Ald. Ed Burke, 14th Ward.

And playing it by ear may be amending the ordinance as the drone industry grows. Other city facilities such as the water plant may be added to the no fly list.

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