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Hi all, I am new to this forum, so I apologize in advance if this is off topic. This may be a local issue and outside your area of influence, but I am reaching out to groups I thought might be able and/or willing to help. I also feel this is an example of a broader concern. The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is a special district operating in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, California, within the East Bay area of the San Francisco Bay Area. It maintains and operates a system of regional parks which is the largest urban regional park district in the United States. For all intents and purposes, this organization manages the available natural open spaces across the entire region. In Dec 2015, with no public comment, the board of the district approved a universal ban on the operation of drones from any park managed property. The stated reason for this was risk to aircraft and potential impact to wildlife, specifically birds. I represent a small group of avid drone operators and aerial photographers that live and at one time were able to use these wonderful tools for to capture the beautiful and unique land and waterscapes found here. Since this ordinance was passed, drone use across general region is almost impossible. Unless operating from private property, there is essentially no accessible area available to operate from. We have basically been forced to abandon the use of these tools. While I understand the concerns raised and support appropriately considered and vetted guidelines. I do believe that unrestricted use could create a risk in public spaces, and consideration should be given to sensitive wildlife, bird nesting areas and other wildlife concerns. However, a complete ban restricts access to and the fair use of public lands that we all support with our tax dollars. Drones, when operated in accordance with FAA guidelines and in a responsible manner do not pose a unique or special risk such that a complete ban is appropriate or justified. However, letters and requests for review of the policy to the park district have gone unanswered. I would respectfully request that the district at least listen to our perspective and take into consideration the value these tools can bring in capturing the natural beauty of the area. Universal bans of new technologies out of the fear of a potential impact, is not justification for limiting or eliminating fair access to our tax supported lands. If any members of this group would be willing to reach out to the Board, purhaps our voices will be heard. As an individual, there is not a lot I can do. However, if enough of us express our concern, this Board and others across the region and nation may actually listen to their constitutes. Best regards, Bruce Hartwell
Minnesota Congressman Jason Lewis (R-MN-02) introduced the Drone Innovation Act, H.R. 2930 joined by Representatives Brownley (D-CA-26), Rokita (R-IN-04), and Garamendi (D-CA-03): H.R. 2930 addresses civil UAS flying up to 200 feet above ground level within a state, local, or tribal government’s jurisdiction. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) retains control over the national airspace. The bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to work with state and local officials to develop a framework for local operation, around a set of principles Lewis outlines to encourage innovation and protect privacy. The bill also establishes a pilot program for federal partnerships to assess best practices. You can read the full text of the bill here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr2930/text Flying Magazine also has a decent write up on this new bill: http://www.flyingmag.com/congress-introduces-bipartisan-drone-innovation-act