Ada County passes new rules for drone use

Ada County

BOISE — Despite federal and state legislation regulating drone use in Idaho, Ada County commissioners unanimously passed a stricter drone ordinance on Tuesday.

The county ordinance restricts drone use that creates a nuisance, is done recklessly or invades residents’ privacy.

District 1 Commissioner Jim Tibbs said the new rule is a result of multiple complaints about privacy invasions involving drones and one instance when a small child was nearly struck by a drone.

“People who were flying drones were trespassing on their property, they were parking on their property,” Tibbs said. “We had some situations occur in the county where we had several residents complain about people coming up and trespassing using the drones.”

Tibbs was unable to give the exact number of complaints issued to the county.

While the newly passed Ada County ordinance 833 affords residents protections already guaranteed under federal law, Tibbs said it localizes the legislation.

Professional drone pilot Matt Roderick, owner and operator of Rapid Aerial, says the ordinance disproportionately affects lawful drone operators.

“It is absolutely more likely to negatively affect a commercial operator than it is the hobbyist or the kid with a drone making his neighbors mad,” Roderick said.

Roderick’s business, which provides individuals and businesses with drone photography and videography, has taken hits from stringent drone photography laws in the past, he said.

“Idaho already has a law on the books about collecting information on people with a drone without their written consent,” Roderick said. “I get why that’s there, and you should have a right to privacy on your own property, but that law cost me a project with NBC Universal.”

Idaho code restricts the use of unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, to photograph an “individual or a dwelling owned by an individual and such dwelling’s curtilage, without such individual’s written consent.”

“You could never apply these ordinances to manned aircrafts,” he said. “You can do whatever you want with your airplane or helicopter.”

The first image, taken from the Ada County assessor’s website, was a picture of the front of Bayer’s house. The second, showing the top of Bayer’s house and the entirety of his property, was taken from a Google Maps search. The third was an “illegal” photo taken with a drone showing Red Tail Apartments in Meridian. Bayer’s house is seen far off in the distance.

Roderick said he never received a response from Bayer, but explained to Bayer that the first two photos, which he described as “completely legal” invasions of privacy, were easily accessible on the internet, while the third “illegal” photo hardly showed Bayer’s house.

Roderick said he believes state and county rules unfairly scrutinize legitimate drone users, though he doesn’t anticipate too many issues to stem from it, as he regularly notifies residents in the area he is shooting photos or video.

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