CAPE ELIZABETH — Rather than create a new set of regulations for using airborne drones on town-owned property, the Town Council hopes to educate people about existing federal rules governing the devices.

The town will also charge those who use drones for commercial photography and filming in Fort Williams Park the same fees that already apply for on-the-ground advertising and commercial work, which range from $250 to $2,000.

During a June 5 workshop, the council also discussed traffic-calming measures for the town center, and heard recommendation to make Spurwink School the new home of the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society.

Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan said discussions about drone use at Fort Williams were spurred as far back as four years ago by concerns about safety and privacy from nearby residents.

Formally known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems, drones are already subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration and must be registered for commercial and recreational use if they weigh between 0.55 and 55 pounds.

FAA regulations stipulate that commercial and recreational drones must be flown below 400 feet, remain within their operator’s line of sight and can’t be flown near airports, manned aircraft, stadiums or people, among other stipulations.

In a memo to the council, attorney Michael Hill said municipalities in other states have implemented prohibitions on launching and flying drones over municipal parks, with the exception of use by law enforcement or emergency services. However, he said, some of those ordinances have been successfully challenged.

Still, Hill said it could be argued that because drone use is not explicitly listed as a permitted use in the Fort Williams master plan, it could be considered prohibited.

Still, councilors were not convinced they could successfully regulate the use. Councilor Valerie Randall suggested the town wait and see how other municipalities’ regulations stand up in court before considering its own.

For now, councilors agreed they should learn more about regulations and how they’re enforced, what operators are required to do before launching a drone, who should be called with concerns about drone use, and what police can do to help ensure federal law is being upheld.

This information, the council said, could be shared with the public via educational handouts distributed by park rangers.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be contacted at 781-3661, ext. 183, or at:

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