Ottawa County eyes banning drones in parks

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WEST OLIVE, Mich. -- As drones continue to fly higher in popularity, so too does the debate over privacy concerns and how to regulate use of the technology.

FOX 17 was first to report on Sunday how the Michigan State Police is the first police agency in the country to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the unmanned aircraft statewide for public safety efforts.

This comes as officials in Ottawa County are looking at banning the use of drones altogether in the county's 20-plus parks.

“We’re worried about privacy issues, worried about safety issues with drones hovering over parks," said John Scholtz, director of Ottawa County Parks and Recreation.

County rules already ban launching motorized remote controlled planes or other similar items in county parks. It isn't clear if the current policy includes drones, Scholtz said.

"Drones are a little different," he said. "They don’t necessarily have to launch from your park, they can just fly from somewhere else and hover over your park, and so that raises a question of whether we control any airspace above our parks."

Scholtz said the parks commission will spend the next few months researching and discussing how to move forward before any final decision is made.

Last June, the National Parks Service passed sweeping restrictions on drone use in every national park. Just this week in England, drones were banned from flying in all of London's Royal Parks.

Ottawa County chose to review its ordinance after receiving emails from residents expressing concern over safety and privacy, Scholtz said.

“I don’t think we want to present ourselves as being opposed to technology, there’s just issues we haven’t thought about yet," he said. "The safety issues, the privacy issues, we’re saying we need to explore that a little bit.”

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