The use of drones and similar devices in Loch Arbour will be limited and controlled under an ordinance adopted by the Board of Commissioners on Aug. 3 by a two-to-one vote.
Deputy Mayor Al Cheswick cast the only dissenting vote against adopting the ordinance with Mayor Paul Fernicola and Commissioner Denis D’Angelo voting for it.
“I don’t feel it’s a wise use of police resources. I have questions about enforcement and for the overall necessity for it. To me, it is not a problem in general,” Cheswick said.
Cheswick also said other questions are raised with the ordinance, such as what if a minor is operating the drone and who gets the fine-the child or the parents.
“There could be a lot of issues and a simple issue could become a complex issue,” he said.
Fernicola said the board adopted the ordinance due to safety and privacy concerns.
“We believe that the ordinance is not unduly restrictive while preserving our residents and beachgoers reasonable expectation of privacy,” he said.
Village resident Paul Williams, who was a trustee under the village’s old form of government, said he is the one that suggested the ordinance be drafted and that he supports it.
“It’s a good pro-active move and drones are affecting way of life and can look into people’s yards and photograph whatever they are doing,” he said.
He said one drone, in particular, in Loch Arbour has been flown over people’s houses and the beach for the past two years.
“It’s getting to be a nuisance and infringes on people’s way of life. People are getting upset with it, especially on the beach. It’s more than a toy and if it malfunctions in can damage property or injure a person,” he said.
Williams said that enforcement should not be a problem and that special devices that are often used in the military can track the drone to where it lands.
“I hope the police look into it so we can track them,” he said.
Deal Police Chief Ronen Neuman said there have only been a few drone incidents in the towns his department patrols. Deal police service both Interlaken and Loch Arbour.
“The problem is locating the source of the drones and, if we can locate them, we will,” he said.
But this is a difficult task and the chief said his department will look into what technology is out there to handle the situation, particularly since the number of drone complaints will probably increase in the future.
“If there is a device to track them then I will look into it. I have never heard of it and I doubt the equipment is cheap,” he said.
Neuman said many residents and beachgoers are uncomfortable having drones film them but, so far, there have not been many complaints.
“It’s a new legal issue that we will have to look into,” he said.
Both Cheswick and Williams said they believe there are similar drone-regulating ordinances in New Jersey but that they do not know if there are similar ones in Monmouth County
Under the ordinance, drones can fly at altitudes below the navigable airspace (generally 400 feet), are equipped with surveillance technologies, and are increasingly available to private citizens for personal, recreational, and other potential uses
They can “fly above roads and through traffic in a manner that is inherently dangerous to the public health. They pose a serious threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the village’s inhabitants, seasonal population, and visitors in general, as well as the economic activity and public safety of the village and the region,” the ordinance said.
Under the ordinance, people cannot operate an unmanned aircraft in a manner that is prohibited by federal or other laws or operate one within 50 feet of a public right of way.
“No person shall operate an unmanned aircraft in a manner that interferes with a law enforcement, firefighter or emergency services operation…or in a careless or reckless manner that poses an apparent or actual threat of harm, or actual harm to persons or property,” it said.
Drones could not be operated over any private property located within Loch Arbour
“in which the resident and/or owner of the subject real property has a reasonable expectation of privacy (including, but not limited to, a private residence or office, and its surrounding yard, parking lot and landscaping).”
The recording of videos and audios from drones will also be banned and the operator must always have visual contact with the drone. Drones are also banned from being operated between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
The maximum liability fines for violating the ordinance is $100,000 for personal injury or death of one person; $300,000 for personal injury or death to more than one person in one accident, with a maximum of $100,000 for each person; and $50,000 for property damage.