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Suffolk County law proposal - prohibition on use of unmanned craft

Discussion in 'Northeast USA' started by Michael Olsen, May 18, 2015.

  1. Michael Olsen

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    FYI Suffolk County NY is considering a resolution to prohibit operation of unmanned craft (with cameras) on county property This would ostensibly prohibit use over beaches, parks, etc. I have written the author and the Presiding Officer to urge them not to adopt this overreaching bill. Consider sending an email. It is set for vote June 2.

    (Copy of my note is attached, as is the proposed law.)

    Thanks,
    Michael
     

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    #1 Michael Olsen, May 18, 2015
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
  2. tcope

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    I did not read your letter buy I read the proposed law. Seems the author is not familiar with the 1st amendment to the Constitution of the United States. You might want to point out that it provides the right to take photos and video in public areas. What device is used it besides the point. I find it amazing and insulting that people who make laws don't understand the US Constitution.
     
  3. liair

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    Michael, Great letter! I know I could not come close to writing a letter so well with all the points mentioned. I hope Steven Bellone does not sign the bill
     
  4. idcny

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    I just sent an email out. I copied your letter, i hope you don't mind. I'm also in Huntington, let's meet up!
     
  5. tcope

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    I sent an email to the two people that proposed the illegal law and cc'ed the person who could approve it. In for the ignore.
     
    #5 tcope, May 18, 2015
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
  6. Michael Olsen

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    I would be interested in any feedback you get. Thanks for noting.
     
  7. idcny

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    Got this email this morning.



    Please see the proposed Amendments to the bill. In addition, please give me a call to discuss. Thank you.



    Brendan Chamberlain

    Legislative Aide

    Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore, 4th L.D.

    325 Middle Country Road, Suite 3

    Selden, NY 11784

    phone (631) 854-9292

    fax (631) 854-9351

    e-mail: brendan.chamberlain@suffolkcountyny.gov
     

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  8. tcope

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    So it seems they went from bad to worse... as difficult as that appears.

    What they changed was their blatant ignoring of the First Amendment. Instead they reworded the proposed law in such a way to have the same affect of banning the taking of photographs of a public place but just going about it a different way. They don't even try to hide this fact in that the proposed law still specifically states it's intent is to prevent photographs from being taken in public. Now they are just banning the conveyance of the camera... rather then the action of taking the photo.

    It appears from the wording of the proposed law that they are relying on the acceptance that public airspace starts 500' above the ground and that land owners retain their rights up to that distance. In US v Causby the Supreme Court mentioned that a land owner has the right to use their land as it was intended. In this case military planes were flying 83' over Causby's chicken farm and causing his chickens to kill themselves. Supreme Court ruled that the planes were infringing on this "easement". But they did not rule where this easement ends. Since these planes were 83', that easement goes up to at least 83' and ends at 500'. There is no ruling on the exact height. To make this clear, the US Supreme Court ruled that a land owner had an easement up to 83'. The FAA has ruled that 500' and above is public air space. So who owns the air space between 83' and 500'? It's yet to be determined.

    What appears obvious to me in this matter are two things; First, this is not a case of infringing on someone's right to use their land. The county can build their building as high as they want and flying a drone is not affecting their use of their property. Second, they are attempting to apply law to air space that the FAA governs.

    Let me just point something out... if Suffolk County thinks they govern air space under 500' (as the FAA controls only public air space and this starts at 500') then we should all be able to ignore FAA guidelines, outside of an airport area, when flying under 500'. This means the FAA cannot charge me with reckless flying or flying commercially as long as I'm under 500'. Anyone think this is going to fly (no pun intended)? If you don't think we can ignore the FAA under 500 feet then why do you think Suffolk County can ignore that the FAA _does_ control this air space?

    Here is my opinion on this matter... Suffolk County cannot make a law that governs the airspace up to 500' unless it were to reinforce the US Supreme Courts ruling that users of air space cannot infringe on a landowners right to use the land as it was intended. They can also make laws the govern what takes place on the land itself, as long as it does not violate US laws, State laws or the Constitution.

    Lastly, the proposed law states you cannot fly "at" or above. How far away is "at". They don't even try to make it clear who this law affects. If I'm across the street am I "at" their "county facility"? How are people to know what and where a "county facility" is located? This law does not state that signs need to be posted. Are we all just supposed to know everything that the county owns? I also thought it was insulting that people providing services to the county were exempt. Why? Do people walking into county facilities feel at ease when they see a drone be operated by someone the county has hired? Yet they are in "fear" when they are operated by someone else?

    There are just so many holes in this stupid law I don't know where they start or end.

    Edit: I understand where the county is coming from. They don't think it's a good idea to have drones flying over their property taking photos of the people walking in and out of the building. But truth is... we can do exactly that without a drone. I can stand off their property and take photos and video all day long of their property and the people walking in and out of the buildings. People don't have to like that but the right is given by the US Constitution. As I mentioned, this has been available for the past 100 (?) years. Who does not have a phone with a camera? Everyone pretty much does but we don't see people standing there taking photos all day. Certainly this is _way_ easier then hovering a drone for 20 minutes at a time over a building. These law makers simply don't understand reality and watch way too much owned media.
     
    #8 tcope, May 20, 2015
    Last edited: May 20, 2015
  9. tcope

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    Well, now I'm a little more rested. I guess its time for round two of emails. If you read this "new" proposed law you will see that they _still_ make it _clear_ that the intent is to stop people from taking photos in a public area. This is _still_ against our First Amendment (I just don't think they care). They simply found a way to accomplish this same illegal goal by, what they think, is a legal means. Hey Suffolk County... why not make a law against black people drinking out of white people's fountains? Oh sure... you will need to word the law in such a way as to get around this obviously illegal ban but feel free to even state what the law is really about. I mean, that should be fine, right?

    These people simply don't get it. They think they have the power to go against the US Constitution. They are not even making half an effort to hide this fact.
     
  10. tcope

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    My email to Suffolk County:

    I previously raised a complaint against Resolution 1175-2015 (see below) and I was forward a copy of the revised proposal. As you will see below, I mentioned that the County does not have the ability to ban taking a photograph in a public location. This was what your proposed law specifically attempted to do, in violation of the US Constitution.

    I took a look at the amended Resolution and still see it as clearly being illegal. This proposed law _still_ specifically states that its intent is to ban taking photographs in a public place (which is _still_ legal). The only thing that has changed is how this is being accomplished. I’m not sure I need to even mention that this is not legal either. No court allows a law to make an end run around a Constitutional right. In this case there is not even guess work involved… the proposed law itself shows this is what is trying to be done. An example is that you want to make a law against black people drinking from white people’s water fountains, realized that there are Constitutional rights against this, you use different wording to accomplish that same goal… and even admit in the law what your actual intention is. To be honest, it’s insulting.

    There are other errors in the law that exist as well. The proposed law states that a done cannot be flow “at” any County facility. How far away is “at”? It does state “above” and this is easy for anyone to understand but aside from above, what is “at”? The proposed law makes no requirement for signs, warning, or anything else that would allow people in the County to stand much of a chance of obeying this law. I’m not advocating it (as I think the law is illegal anyway) but you may want to review National laws on this subject and you will find that they require parks to post signs to let people know about the law.

    Lastly, any law made by the County that attempts to regulate _any_ air space is illegal. I do understand this proposed law considers that the FAA has ruled that public air space exists at 500’ and that air rights exist up to that point, however, it ignores United States Code. Specifically 49 U.S.C. 40103 Sovereignty and use of airspace:


    §40103. Sovereignty and use of airspace

    (a) Sovereignty and Public Right of Transit.—(1) The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States.

    It appears that someone understands that the F.A.A. has deemed airspace above 500’ as public air space and that they have determined that they regulate airspace in this area. However, this does not mean that the County can make laws that contradict US Code for airspace up to 500’. The F.A.A has asserted their rights to all airspace through recent court actions (Virginia case involving Pirker). There is also the US Supreme Court case of Thomas Lee Causby. In that case the US Supreme Court opined that the landowner had an “easement” above his land (83’). But this applied to his enjoyment and the use of the land as it was intended. So while the Causby case is different (as a done does not prevent the County from using their property as intended), it shows that the only ruling is that a property owner has an easement at least up to 83 feet but not above 500 feet. There is no ruling that explains the easement situation between those heights. It also still does not detract from the US Code giving the US Government control over all airspace.

    Lastly, this proposed law is being presented under the guise that obtaining photographs from a drone is somehow more detrimental then obtaining a photograph from a camera or phone. After all, this law says nothing against taking anyone’s photograph in these other ways (which is far easier and more prevalent). So it’s clear that this law is simply aimed against people who fly drones and not people who take photographs in public places. It plays out as an illegal law with a hint of discrimination.
     
  11. bbfpv

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    nice work.
     
  12. Michael Olsen

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    Anyone seen a response from the legislator/sponsor or his staff?

    Maybe if they want to persist in the prohibition to protect privacy and safety, maybe the prohibition on operating (takeoff, landing, or operating from) parks and beaches should be in effect only Memorial day to Labor day, on densely occupied public beaches or parks, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., with no off season restriction. This would square the interests of the County with the preemption of regulating airspace, by regulating use of the parks and beaches (standing and operating). I assume they will also prohibit frisbees, baseballs, and lacrosse sticks.

    Contact appears to be Brendan Chamberlain
    Brendan Chamberlain
    Legislative Aide
    Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore, 4th L.D.
    325 Middle Country Road, Suite 3
    Selden, NY 11784
    phone (631) 854-9292
    fax (631) 854-9351
    e-mail: brendan.chamberlain@suffolkcountyny.gov
     
  13. tcope

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    Here is my take... they know the law is illegal and don't care. They want to be able to tell people that they are preventing drones from stealing confidential information and from spying on people. They want to give law enforcement the ability to threaten people with an illegal law and get them to stop flying. The two people who proposed this law have even said that this is just a start.

    These two people should be put in jail or at least ran out of office.
     
  14. MapMaker53

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    Though a county-wide parks ban on drone flying would be a huge disappointment to us drone operators, I think the above arguments are useless. Many Nassau and Suffolk County parks already forbid model airplane flying (just read the park regulations sign at the entrance of almost any county park) and they have the right to do so - just like they forbid any alcoholic beverages in some parks even though adults who are above the State's legal drinking age use the parks. The county government can set the rules. The park sign I saw today said that no firearms were allowed in the park - but I'm sure county workers like the police are exempt from that rule. Are people more comfortable with having these county workers carrying firearms in the park than the average Joe? Absolutely -- just giving that as an example. Telling a governing board that what they are doing is illegal is going to get you nowhere because the county has their own lawyers looking at the laws and regulations they propose - and I'm sure they tweak them based on their legal advice. IMO, it would be more beneficial to actually invite the key people who are proposing the new park regulations to a flight demo and actually let them take the controls and show them that the drone can be flown relatively safely within a large open park environment. I doubt if they are truly concerned about privacy in a park. However... I do know of one park that has a pool with locker room changing areas that are enclosed on 4 sides for privacy but are open to the sky. Possibly a number of other County parks that have pools have a similar situation - hence the privacy from low flying camera equipped drones concern. I just think approaching this problem by claiming current law is on your side will do nothing to stop the prohibition from being passed -- unless you are willing to pony up a boat-load of cash to challenge the County in court.
     
  15. tcope

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    This is more then just county parks... it's all county _facilities_. Some how people are supposed to know all the county buildings and property. But the real issue is that they don't state you can't launch, land or operate from their land (legal), they state that you can't fly "at" any of their faculties. They don't own or regulate air space.

    Lawyers and law makes make illegal laws all of the time. Some of these laws are over-turned by the court system. Happens all of the time. This proposed law is the perfect example, at first it stated that it was illegal to take a photo with a drone. Once they realized that this was illegal, they changed it to say you could not fly a drone with a camera. They still clearly state their intention is not to allow photos from a drone. They claim they don't want photos taken of people at county facilities... yet they only ban photos from drones... not from people with cell phone cameras.

    You should read what these two idiots have told the press. One fears that drones will peer into county buildings and read private documents. Another is worried about drone carrying dangerous payloads (as if that could not have been done a million other ways since the dawn of time). These people _clearly_ don't want drones in the air.


    [/quote]However... I do know of one park that has a pool with locker room changing areas that are enclosed on 4 sides for privacy but are open to the sky. Possibly a number of other County parks that have pools have a similar situation - hence the privacy from low flying camera equipped drones concern. [/quote] 1) it is currently illegal to take photos of those areas, we don't need another law that bans the flying of all drones every place at county facilities. We just need to enforce the existing laws and 2) if someone wants to illegally take photos in those areas and the existing laws don't stop them... more laws won't stop them either.

    Your right.... you can't stop someone from making an illegal law if they want to do it anyway. It's scary that someone would just ignore this and do it anyway.
     
  16. MapMaker53

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    Other than parks, what type of county facility in Suffolk county would you like to be able to fly your drone at? It's easy to find out what is a county facility and what is not if you just do some research about the site you are looking to fly at. I'm sure the county doesn't want to have to put a No Drone Flying sign up at every single county facility, so they just pass a law prohibiting it so they can inform you of the law when you show up. It's a more efficient way for them to keep you off county property. Like I said, model airplanes are already banned from most county parks unless it happens to have an sanctioned area for a local flying club. Common sense says drones are a form of model airplane and fall under the same restrictions. It was easy to see this clamp-down on drones coming because of the bad press generated by the morons that fly with no concern about public safety, posting everything on YouTube, etc. It's those idiots that have ruined it for us all, not the legislators that are now focusing on prohibiting drone flying at county facilities for whatever reason. They just don't like what they have seen/heard about drones, probably feel they are unsafe for any number of reasons, and don't want to deal with them on any county property. Frankly, from what I've seen on the news, I can't blame them. Your anger and frustration should be aimed at drone operators that have ruined it for you, not those reacting to it. But good luck with your legal fight none the less.
     
  17. tcope

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    None. I'm nowhere near NY. But that is not the point. People read and people talk. We are seeing more and more people making laws against drones. Once a few people start doing it, everyone jumps on the band wagon. After all, if those people thought it important enough to stop drones, there must be some merit to it. Once someone is allowed to make an illegal law then other people will do the same thing. I could care less about taking a photo of a county facility. What I _do_ care about is stopping the start of people making laws that violate the 1st Amendment.


    I beg to differ and people should not need to do research before doing something that is legal.

    Edit: If you'd like I'll take you up on this. I'll give you some addresses and you can tell me if they are county facilities or not. Deal? Not city, not unincorporated areas, not private buildings on county property... county facilities. What this means is that each and every time you fly in the county you need to research the entire area you will be flying in and around to make sure the county does not own any property there. Sounds like fun!

    I don't think you are considering what the law is intended to do. It's very clear in the law intent is to stop people from taking photos. How do I know this? It states that specifically right under the area used to state the intent of the law. On top of that, the law takes legal control of the airspace above and "at" all of their facilities.

    Please read the law or many of my posts. This law says _nothing_ about staying off their property (which they'd have every right to do). The law state that a drone cannot be "at" their facility. If you read other laws or mandates, such as from the National Park system you will see that they specifically state that a drone cannot be launched, landed or operated from their land. This is because they understand they don't control the airspace.

    Sufffolk County is not the first to make rules such as these. So it's not like they don't have precedent to review.

    There are always going to be a very small percentage of people who use something to do something wrong. People take bats and smash windows. People use spray paint to tag buildings. I could on and on. But we don't ban those things. When is the last time you saw a county or city banning baseball bats from their parks? There are already laws in place that would allow those idiots to be charged with a crime. I also have no problem with entities piggy backing on these existing laws to make them easier to enforce and to make them more clear. We are also talking about a very small minority. These people broke existing laws... why do you think they would follow additional laws? Still, this does not justify an illegal law.

    You may find that these "laws" start popping up in your area. You may also find in the not to distant future that you will find places to fly are _very_ limited. So much so, that it's not even worth owning a drone. This is how these things work. I mention this as you say it's "my" fight. You may not realize that you have a stake in this as well. To what degree you want to participate is up to you. Each person needs to make this decision.
     
    #17 tcope, May 23, 2015
    Last edited: May 23, 2015
  18. MapMaker53

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    I agree. Because of the way morons have been operating drones it will become increasingly difficult to find anywhere to fly a drone within populated areas. There are obviously already established laws that deal with the obnoxious and destructive behavior of some intoxicated individuals, but towns and counties have still decided to establish No-Alcohol rules for parks in order to efficiently eliminate the problem, even though most respectful people would probably just enjoy an occasional beer in the park. The No-Drones at county facilities would be the same type of broad law applied to county facilities. I appreciate a guy in Utah (who must have plenty of open space to fly) taking up the fight and feeling passionate for Suffolk County, NY drone operators and I understand your concern. But claiming these types of laws go against the First Amendment.. well, having read the First Amendment, I just don't see where it says you have the freedom to fly a drone or video tape or take photographs wherever you want to do it. Are you interpreting such activity as part of having "freedom of expression"? There are plenty of places where you are not allowed to take photographs.

    I think the more effective argument one could put forward as a suggestion to the lawmakers would be what Michael has suggested -- to just prohibit drone flying between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the parks are most used by the public. Or establish a limited flying section of the park, similar to how they limit the surfing areas at state and county beaches. I know I'm talking mainly about parks, but honestly I know of no other county facilities that I can think of that I would care to fly at. Maybe you can give me some examples of what type of county facilities they have where you live that you would like to fly.

    At the moment, the individual hobbyist is in a better position to legally fly than commercial businesses. But this is bound to change. Commercial business will have more at stake when it comes to operating a drone safely and abiding by the law, while a lot of individual drone owners feel they are above the law and want to do anything they like. Local governments are starting to take note of that behavior and attitude and I do believe that purchasing a drone may eventually be a waste of money - especially in the more populated areas of the country like on Long Island. Again, you should thank the morons who post their illegal flights on YouTube.
     
  19. tcope

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    I've mentioned this before.... Suffolk County is attempting to regulate airspace. Only the US Gov, per US Code has this ability. The US Gov has stated that the FAA is in charge of regulating airspace in the US.

    However, Suffolk County appears to think that they can regulate airspace.

    As far as photos being taken, yes the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, it's been ruled that speech is communication and that photos are communication (I thought this was already posted in this thread). Yes, photos are restricted but only when they are taken from non public property. This law does not allow me to stand on public property, fly in public airspace and take photos of a public building. Keep this in mind.. is says _nothing_ about me standing on that same public property and taking photos of a public building with a camera. Yet, the law specifically states it's to prevent people from taking photos of the area around the county facilities. Why is that? It's because they are specifically targeting drones and drone fliers. So they only fear what is being flown in the air.... that they have no jurisdiction over.
     
  20. MapMaker53

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    Maybe it's different in Utah, but around here you are not allowed to fly motorized model airplanes in the air (between ground and clouds) within the boundaries of most public parks -- plain and simple. If you feel this is illegal, good luck with the fight. Yes, freedom of expression is communication - as in putting the photos on display for public viewing. The First Amendment in no way grants you the freedom to use any method or place you want in how you obtain those photos. That has nothing to do with communication. I appreciate your help, but I think your argument is wrong. The county has the legal right to establish county land use restrictions. If you want to argue that it doesn't include the air above the playground and kiddie pool, nature preserves, etc. I think you are fighting a losing battle. The county legislators are going to act in what they perceive as being in the best interest of the people of their county and, at this point, I bet there are more people who don't want drones flying over their heads in county parks than do. It's just the reality of how things have developed due to the bad press and public perception.