Green Bay’s new drone ordinance becomes law


Green Bay is the first City in the State of Wisconsin to pass an ordinance banning drones from operating at special events. What does this mean for you? Here’s the text of the ordinance:

27.310 DRONE USE AT SPECIAL EVENTS.

(1) SPECIAL EVENT DEFINED. For purposes of this subsection, Special Event shall have the same meaning as defined under Green Bay Municipal Code 6.201(9).

(2) PROHIBITED. It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to fly or operate a drone as defined in Wis. Stat. 175.55(1)(a), below an altitude of 400 feet within the designated boundaries of a special event during the scheduled time of the event. This subsection shall not apply to authorized law enforcement agencies or operators having obtained approval from the event organizer or from the Federal Aviation Administration.

This ordinance makes it illegal to fly a drone over event grounds such as Green Bay Packer Games, Farmers Market, Fire over the Fox (July 4th festival), Cellcom Marathon and any other event the City has defined as a “special event” unless you have obtained permission fromt he event organizer.   The original draft created a 400 buffer zone from the exterior of the event. This posed a problem for law enforcement who would first have to identify the boundary of the event, draw an imaginary vertical line in the sky and then measure out 400 feet from that line to determine if a drone had encroached in that airspace. The City’s intent was to prevent drone from flying over the top of people or flying into the fireworks so it made more sense to restrict these activities.

The ordinance will have little effect on the local drone community. If drone operators want video of a special event can still get it by asking permission from the event coordinator. Still, the ordinance creates a new layer of regulation on a promising technology, without one complaint. FAA regulations already banned the activity the ordinance was intended to curb.

This ordinance is likely preempted by federal law. My advice is to obey the law but I hope city officials will consider rewriting an ordinance that complies with Federal Regulations.  

Singer v. Newton

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