Chicago drone ordinance

On November 18, the Aviation Committee of the Chicago City Council recommended that the full City Council adopt an ordinance that exempts section 333 exemption holders but subjects other operations to limitations similar to imposed by the FAA on commercial operations and by the AMA on hobbyists.

See news stories about the ordinance:

RTDNA newsletter

Chicago Sun-Times

Co-sponsor Alderman Waguespack newsletter statement

The original regulates drone flight anywhere in the city limits. It exempts section 333 holders as long as they fly within the limitations imposed by their exemption and its accompanying COA, and allows recreational hobbyist flight according to rules specified in the ordinance. 

The rules basically track the AMA model aircraft guidelines and the FAA's guy for hobbyists and recreational flight. For operations covered by the ordinance, it limits flights to below 400 feet, requires that they stay within the line of sight of the drone operator ("DROP"), limits lights to daylight, and prohibits flights over people and over private property without consent.. It also limits flights over schools, churches, large assemblies, and electric utility infrastructure.

Because of the way it exempts section 333 operations and recreational flight within AMA rules, it effectively targets casual recreational users not affiliated with a model aircraft club and commercial operators who have not received a section 333 exemption.

In other words, it focuses regulatory resources on the two sources of the greatest safety problems with proliferating grown used.

The ordinance, as adopted, is a vast improvement over the original version introduced on 29 July 2015. As originally introduced, the ordinance prohibited all drone flights unless the operator registered with the city, paid a registration fee, and demonstrated liability coverage. The original version made no effort to dovetail its provisions with FAA rules.

The full City Council is expected to adopt the ordinance at its meeting on 18 November 2015, making it effective 10 days after enactment.

Modovolate Aviation, LLC has been granted  a section 333 exemption allowing it to fly commercially for aerial photography, newsgathering, research, demonstration, and training purposes. Text of the exemption.
Modovolate Aviation, LLC has submitted a formal petition to the FAA asking for rulemaking to regulate microdrones as consumer products that cannot be sold unless they contain built-in limitations on flight profiles. The Petition and its supporting Memorandum are available in the documents section of the website.
The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed a TX company's challenge to the FAA prohibition on commercial drone operations and also invalidated the FAA cease-and-desist order. See the Documents page for the order and a brief analysis.
DOT Inspector General says FAA is way behind on integrating drones into the NAS. Get the report in the documents section of this website
Six Hollywood photography firms have filed petitions for exemption from FAR rules to permit them to fly microdrones in support of television and movie photography. The lead petition to the FAA and Movo Aviation's comment can be found in the documents section of this site.
Movo Aviation has submitted comments to the FAA supporting its restrictions on FPV flight of model aircraft, but urging a different approach to microdrone regulation. The comment can be found in the documents section of this website.
Vertical Magazine article: Reining in the Renegades
Rotorcraft Pro article Leashing Drones
The Tech (MIT) article: Law and Order in the Skies
Professional Pilot article: But who's going to fly them?
Heliweb article: Is there a drone in your future?
Texas group seeks judicial review of FAA's drone prohibition. 

On 21 April 2014, a Texas volunteer search-and-rescue organization sought review of the FAA's order to stop flying model aircraft in support of searches. Texas Equusearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team v. Federal Aviation Administration, Case No. 14-1061 (D.C. Cir. filed Apr. 21, 2014).

A copy of the petition for review is available here.

FAA files brief in Pirker case before the NTSB
President of HAI says drones will increase opportunities for helicopter pilots and operators:

“UAV operations, both recreational and commercial, have the potential to benefit the helicopter industry in different ways. . . . UAVs operated as an extension or option to existing helicopter activity will allow commercial helicopter operators to deliver more services to a larger customer base over a wider mission profile and expanded economic cost range.

“With the increased use of UAVs, helicopter operators should be looking for opportunities for new technology, additional operating capabilities, and expanded markets. The smart thinking says, get involved now. Who better to operate UAVs than helicopter operators?"

Matt Zuccaro, President of HAI

In the aftermath of the NTSB ALJ decision (see below) industry groups wrote the FAA administrator pointing out that:

“[T]he publication of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for small UAS remains a missing and critical piece of the puzzle.”

The letter “recommend[s] the FAA use all available means . . . to allow for some limited UAS operations, subject to the Secretary of Transportation’s safety determination, before the small UAS rule is finalized.”

It further urges deference to voluntary flight safety standards such as those developed by the model aircraft community:

“The recreational community has proven that community-based safety programming is effective in managing this level of activity, and we highly encourage the FAA to allow similar programming to be used to allow the small UAS industry to establish appropriate standards for safe operation. Doing so will allow a portion of the promising commercial sector to begin operating safely and responsibly in the national airspace.”

The full text of the letter is availablehere.

NTSB administrative law judge dismisses penalties for commercial use of small drone

In Huerta v. Pirker, Docket CP-215 (NTSB Mar 6, 2014), an administrative law judge of the NTSB dismissed a civil penalty complaint and held that the FAA has no jurisdiction over model aircraft flown for commercial purposes.  The full text of the decision is available here.

Our analysis is available here.


State and local regulation is unconstitutional
State and local regulation of private drone use is unconstitutional. Read the white paper.
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