Parks versus Drone Coalition rescheduled for additional hearing

GENESEE COUNTY — After the presentation of evidence showing other parks and parks system allowing the operation of drones within their boundaries, the attorney representing Genesee County stood her ground against a request for injunctive relief from the Michigan Drone Coalition of operators of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

If the county has their way, drone operators would not be allowed to fly without applying for a permit and paying a fee, not to mention a million dollars in liability insurance and only in specified parks.

The coalition, on the other hand, claims the parks have no legal authority over drone operations—only the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does.

The coalition also alleges the county knows this, as one of their drone operators, Robert Harrison, was arrested last year by park rangers, but the Genesee County Prosecutor’s office chose to not pursue the case in court.

Attorney Rhonda Stowers, representing Genesee County in the case, works for the prosecutor’s office.

The county claims to be protecting park patrons who don’t want to be annoyed by drones, which the coalition counters as invalid as drone operators are heavily regulated in that manner already.

Harrison is fully licensed and operates his UAV for commercial purposes, which allows him to use it to video for fire and other commercial activities and upload them to his YouTube channel as a means of income.

His arrest or any future violation of the law, could prohibit him or likewise any drone operator, from being able to be licensed and bonded for commercial purposes – which is a countyimposed limit on their ability to earn a living.

The county tried to make the case it is a regional authority, including Lapeer County Parks, but the drone coalition refuted their reasoning based on parks enabling statutes from the State of Michigan.

The county is currently relying on the second portion of the statute which states “This act does not prohibit a political subdivision from promulgating rules, regulations, and ordinances for the use of unmanned aircraft systems by the political subdivision within the boundaries of the political subdivision.”

The drone operators said they don’t believe Genesee County meets the definition of a regional authority per the act or a ‘political subdivision’. Genesee County will have a chance to prove their arguments when they next appear in front of Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah, at a to be determined date.