Drone coalition flying high over court ruling

GENESEE COUNTY — Genesee County 7th Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah issued a final ruling in a case pitting the Michigan Coalition of Drone Operators (MCDO) against Genesee County Parks who not only was refusing to allow unrestricted use of drones in the parks, but actually arrested one operator and seized his equipment.

This even though new Parks Director, Barry June, who is also a trustee on the Atlas Township Board, was familiar with the unenforceability of the law based on their investigation into having a drone control ordinance in that area.

June said in response, “We feel they are not appropriate for all Park locations, the same as a remote-control helicopters or airplanes. We will decide how to respond to the Judges opinion in the coming weeks. We may have to come up with a legislative solution.”

Drones, or unmanned aircraft, and their operators, are thoroughly regulated and licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration. Most resident complaints against rogue drone operators are handled under local nuisance ordinance, but the coalition members implied such operators are few and far between.

According to a press release from the coalition, a similar drone preemption law exists in more than 17 other states, and this is believed to be the first test case. The ramifications of this decision will likely have a nationwide impact.

Farah granted the request for injunctive relief; “The Court prohibits the enforcement of any ban on possession, use, or operation of drones… by the Genesee County Parks Commission and any of its agents, representatives, Rangers, member, officer, directors, and employees…” the press release said.

MCDO did not seek monetary damages, simply asked the court to declare the park ordinance invalid and unenforceable. The crux of the case is the county was regulating unmanned aircraft while they interpreted that Michigan Law clearly reads local governments should not do so.