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Palm Coast Government Will Fly 3 Drones For Civil Uses, Excluding Code Enforcement And Private Property

| October 10, 2018

palm coast drones

A drone’s view of the Indian Trails Sports Complex from 300 feet. The red circle indicates the drone pilot’s position on the ground. The image was part of a presentation to the Palm Coast council on Tuesday.

Palm Coast government is getting into drones.

The city says several departments need drones: Information technology, planning, PR. utility, building and construction, and the fire department. But Kladke said they would be used with limits for public safety and to fly over public infrastructure–not over private property: code enforcement, for example, was expressly excluded from the list of departments that would make use of drones, as Interim City Manager Beau Falgout stressed.


“We will use drones to enhance public safety and inspect city infrastructure, but we will not use them to capture images of private property, and we’ll make sure that pour city drone pilots are licensed, insured and well-trained,” Austin Kladke of the city’s Geographic Information Systems said.

That doesn’t mean the city will never fly over private property, but its proposed code of conduct requires the drone pilot first to “obtain written permission from private land owners in order to fly on and over their property.”

The initial cost of the program will be $8,000, the approximate annual cost will be $4,500, for three drones, Kladke said.

The city administration presented its drones program to the city council Tuesday morning to both explain its breadth and intentions and to reassure the council and residents that the city does not intend to send Big Brother airborne.

“Drones get a lot of interest,” Falgout said, “I think it was one of the most popular Christmas gifts last year, so the prevalence of them in both the private and the public sector is rising. So internally we have a drone team here that’s been looking at how we use drones and how we operate them and make sure we address some of the public concerns about drone use, so the presentation today is really to try to give you and the public a greater understanding what the benefits of using drones for city operations, and then also how we’re not going to use drones, and how we’re going to operate them.”

The drone program does not require city council approval. Falgout wanted it presented to give the council clarity on its application, however. He got only plaudits. “This is great stuff,” Mayor Milissa Holland said.

Palm Coast is looking to join a trend that will likely be a norm within a few years. As of January there were 1 million drones registered with the FAA–878,000 of them by hobbyists, the rest by businesses and government. It’s now a billion-dollar industry.

Drones’ capabilities include ease of use. They’re much cheaper then helicopters or planes, if the aim is to capture imagery of what’s below. One person can operate them. They use nothing like the amounts of fuel planes and helicopters use, so they’re greener technology. They can be used to survey inventory, inspect roofs, solar panels, they can be used by firefighters to help in rescues and by public works employees to deal with stormwater issues.

For now the city’s GIS department uses standard satellite imagery, which tends to be more than a year old, “it does not meet the detailed requirements for many of our projects,” Austin Kladke said. Or else it’s blurry. The imagery is generally provided by Flagler County overflights.

The difference between standard imagery and drone imagery can be striking, not only by being up to date, but in details rendered as images or video–raising questions of privacy.

All images and videos will have to be preserved within the bounds of the state’s public records law, with retention of images ranging from 30 days to five years, depending on the nature of the document.

The city has drafted a code of conduct (yet to be approved). It outlines pilots’ training and qualifications requirements, calls for an approved list of employees authorized to fly drones, and lists standard operating procedures, including the logging of all flight hours (a publicly available document).

The code also includes a section on how to react to emergencies and accidents. For example, if objects are thrown at the drone, or the drone is under gunfire, here’s what the code states: “The pilot in command should take evasive action, if possible. The drone must be immediately landed in as safe a manner as possible. The remote pilot in command should leave the scene in order to achieve a safe distance. If an object was maliciously thrown at the drone or a firearm was discharged at the drone, the remote pilot in command must call 911 when safe to do so. Such actions are illegal and should be treated with the highest amount of caution. After the pilot’s safety is no longer in jeopardy, they should alert the City Manager and the Drone Team about the incident.”

Flying drones is not a new job title in the city–not yet. It’s only been four or five months since the GIS department started flying drones.

“We’ve been very strategic about how we approach this, and of course with our partners as well,” whether it’s the St. Johns River Water Management District or the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office or the county airport.

The sheriff’s office does not have a drone program. Law enforcement is not prohibited from using drones, but it is severely restricted in their use. For example, it may not use them to conduct surveillance or to snoop around backyards to see who’s growing pot, but it may use them in emergency situations, as when searching for a suspect or a missing person, Chief Mark Strobridge–himself a licensed drone pilot who owns a drone–said. The Flagler County school district has a drone at Flagler Palm Coast High School’s aeronautics program, in conjunction with Embry Riddle Aeronautic University, said district spokesman Jason Wheeler. With the university’s help the district built a drone flying zone, covered with a net, at the east end of campus, so students can practice flying drones even in proximity of the county airport.

Council member Bob Cuff suggested data-sharing with other local agencies that use drones.

The code of conduct includes several prohibited uses. Among them: “To record an image of privately owned property or of the owner, tenant, occupant or licensee of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image in violation of such person’s reasonable expectation of privacy without his or her written consent.”

“To conduct surveillance on individuals exercising their constitutional right of free speech and
Assembly.”

“In any way that would violate the Constitutional Rights of any citizen, or in violation of state or
federal statute regarding use of a UAS.” (UAS is the acronym for unmanned aircraft system.)

“To conduct personal business of any type. To harass or intimidate any individual or group. As a weapon. Situations where there may be an increased risk of injury to others.”

See the full presentation and the complete draft of the code of conduct below.

Palm Coast Government’s Drones: Program and Rules (2018)

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28 Responses for “Palm Coast Government Will Fly 3 Drones For Civil Uses, Excluding Code Enforcement And Private Property”

  1. Dave says:

    No amount of money will make me allow them to fly drones over or near my property. Any drones seen flying anywhere near my property will be dealt with.

  2. DOWNTOWN says:

    Why is it that three are needed? Why can’t a drone be shared with the different city departments? The news item states that the city already has a drone and a licensed employee to fly a drone. So why is all this money being spent on more drones and getting people licensed? Why not hold off on the drones until the streets in the city are well lit

  3. Mark says:

    I guess inspecting government buildings can be done away with? Will this delete some building inspector’s jobs thereby saving some $?

  4. bob says:

    Why do the need three instead of one? Because they are spending other peoples money.! SLIPPERY SLOPE here we come. LOL

  5. lnzc says:

    Need 3 to spend more money as usal

  6. Democrats says:

    You are all sheep going to the slaughter. Holland is a Democrat in republican clothing. These drones will be used to spy on you. Believe it or not.

  7. Russell A Smith says:

    I can see a lot of possible abuse here. I fear that these drones will be used by government to peer into our lives. People have a right to privacy and these drones will be used to snoop on all of us. In Theory these are a good idea to look at things from above and will make life easier and save money. However, I fear that they will be used to look for code violations, watching people in their yards and pools. “Bad Idea”

  8. Brian says:

    Agree Dave.

  9. Ross says:

    Under Section 336 of current federal law, only the FAA has jurisdiction over airspace, not states, cities or municipalities. It appears that Palm Coast pilots are being instructed to obtain homeowners permission to fly over someone’s private property as a courtesy to the homeowner. They don’t have to do that anymore than a private plane’s pilot does. Welcome to 2018, satellites have been looking down on us for decades.

  10. Iva Hadit says:

    What are you going to do?

  11. mark101 says:

    “”” So why is all this money being spent on more drones “”, because the city council said so., you know the corrupt ones.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    We will protect our airspace above our property against video seeking drones by any means possible!!

  13. Steve Vanne says:

    Dave, Its not against the FAA rules to fly a drone over private property, though I do my best not to do so. But unfortunately there r people out there that don’t follow the rules. Also my drone can fly out over 4 miles from my take off spot, might be hard to find the operator.

  14. Thisnthat says:

    Hopefully practicing with my tennis ball and racquet in the back yard doesnt knock one from the sky.

  15. DRedder says:

    This is anothers example of local government wasting taxpayers money. Here the initial cost estimate is 8K, but somehow in the end it will actually cost 10 to 12K. That said our tax money is going to pay to train and license a few persons who could take that training and license with them elsewhere or in the private sector.
    Do we need drones NO , but we’re gonna blow thru someone else’s money and get them. What did we ever do without them? We actually got off our asses and climed up and did hands on personal inspections our looked at Google Earth (free btw).
    Only two agencies ever need drones Fire and PD and both for saftey.
    Here is a novel idea, why not have a extra class activity for the local High school’s and have them as part if a training job thing for those graduating. Maybe even as a Air Force ROTC thing. Where as the cost of equipment is placed elsewhere , and the city can contribute a smaller part and when a city entity requires one they can obtain the service of the students in the program and the drone for thier inspections.
    To Ms. Mayor & you foolish council members,
    Stop spending our money on BS .

  16. Michael Bolchunas says:

    I bet bb gun sales will spike at Wal-Mart…

  17. Dave says:

    People break rules, including drone operators. They are only human, and given the opportunity to spy, even just for fun and personal reasons, can happen. What about street lights? Sidewalks? What is happening in this county? Priorities Are all put of wack!

  18. Dave says:

    Steve Vanne, im not worried what legal or not, and we dont need to find the operator. We have plenty of practice dealing with such things in florida, just make sure you’re done is high enough I cant see it.

  19. Steve Vanne says:

    Dave won’t be a problem 400ft up u will never know I’m there.

  20. DOWNTOWN says:

    And that’s the problem in a nut shell, “400ft up u will never know I’m there” Thank you for pointing that out.

  21. Agkistrodon says:

    So is it a correct assumption that in the coming months we’ll see a “drone fee” on our Utility bill, seeing how they want us to have two ELECTRICITY charges in addition to the one FPL soaks you for…….

  22. Dave says:

    Well I can see the passenger jets and airliners fly over so unless you will higher than them we will have problems. Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS) are available and affordable online for anyone looking to stop these drones from flying around your property

  23. Sherry says:

    Read “1984” again and again!

    Unfortunately the vast majority of people are so entranced by any new technological toy they are personally throwing their “sacred privacy” out the window. The definition of “Big Brother”:

    1. DRONES
    2. Home “listening and watching” devices: Yes, ALEXA (virtual assistant) type devices, and ALL SMART Televisions that are controlled by voice or vision.
    3. Pubic video cameras
    4. Cell phone GPS (tracking) systems. . . and on and on

    Now imagine if all that data about you falls into the “WRONG” hands. . . define “WRONG” hands, will ya? Imagine if that data is “weaponized” against you. “Identity Theft” would be the very least of your worries.

    As Steve Vanne (the Drone operator) says, “u will never know I’m there”!!!!

  24. Agkistrodon says:

    Well Sherry when you vote in the Socialist Democrats and the government decides EVERYTHING for YOU, then YOU will have 1984. And no further say in the matter. Reap the whirlwind.

  25. thomas says:

    Consistent with PC’s lack of fiscal prudence, this will pass easily. UGH

  26. Pogo says:

    @Luddite hysteria

    Y’all so late – even your idea of the future is already ancient history.

  27. Richard says:

    As one poster subtly pointed out, there are SPY satellites in the sky WAY above you which have the ability to read you license plate number on your car or your house number on your mailbox. And you are worried about a small drone with a HD camera? I am a licensed and certified drone operator who totally respects people’s privacy and concerns. My drone is used for professional purposes and for pleasure. If the person who thinks that a tennis ball can knock a drone out of the sky maybe you should be in contention for the Wimbledon Championship, LOL.

  28. FAA Says: says:

    FAA requires drone operators to obtain a part 107 Exemption if the drone will fly:
    1: Beyond Visual Line of sight of the don operator.
    2; Over 400′ of land or any object building water tower, etc
    3: At night (before 1/2 hour after dawn, after 1/2 hour before dusk)

    They are then required to have Anticollision beacon visible for over 3 miles.

    Other than that, drone operation is fair game. Huge industry developing to counter the drone threat, Fortem Tech is a company where say you have a Govt building, stadium, prison, and you want to keep drones from dropping contraband (drugs, weapons, cell phones) the company makes a hunter drone, it takes off autonomously and fires a shotgun shell with a monofilament net and weights inside, drops it right out the sky.

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