A sign of the times recently appeared at the entrance of Garden of the Gods.
“NO remote aircraft allowed in park,” the sign reads. “City ORD 9.9.406”
“It’s been a city ordinance for as long as I’ve been with the city, 15 years plus, that any remote controlled aircraft are not allowed in city parks,” said Scott Abbott, a supervisor for the parks department.
But a new trend has taken off and so Abbott decided a sign was needed as a reminder.
“We get a lot of recreational drone fliers in a number of our parks,” Abbott said. “We have had a number of different incidences where these drones have lost control and crashed within these parks.”
Garden of the Gods, Abbott says, is the most popular park that is buzzed.
Stan Vanderwerf who has started a 3-D printing company that manufacturers unmanned aircraft system, or UAS, parts, says there's a reason...
“This is a real technology revolution with UAS,” Vanderwerf said. “Radio controlled types of aircraft have been around 50 years or longer the things that makes them different today are the sensors that you can put on them because the sensors are so much less expensive and so much smaller.”
Like cameras. For a minimal investment anyone can send a UAS into the sky and capture cinema quality video that before one would need a helicopter.
Ironically, while the Colorado Springs Parks Department has banned UAS’s, they have benefited from the machines too.
“This is the Manitou Incline,” David Deitemeyer, a park planner said while showing video captured by a hobbyist’s UAS of the popular hiking trail. “We were capturing the existing conditions of the incline.”
Deitemeyer says in just a few minutes the flight saved hours on foot to survey what needed fixed. Pictures pieced together also helped the city secure tens of thousands of dollars in grant money to help pay for the repairs.
“It’s a real time assessment of the work that needs to happen,” Deitemeyer said.
The city also used the same hobbyist’s drone to get an understanding of the damage caused by last fall’s floods.
“We were able to, from a safe vantage point, really investigate all of the impacts that were caused during the erosion,” Deitemeyer said. “Helicopters have been used in the past and we’ve seen price tags on flights for two-thousand dollars.”
But the technology’s future with the city and the country is stalled. The FAA is working on new guidelines regarding UAS models. In the meantime, the agency has banned any commercial use by the devices.
They are legal for recreational use by hobbyists if they follow simple guidelines:
-Keep the UAS under 400 feet.
-Maintain visual contact.
-Stay away at least five miles from an airport, or notify air traffic control if you fly any closer.
Proponents believe the industry could be worth billions of dollars someday, but in the meantime safety and privacy concerns are being worked out until UAS’s can really reach that sky high potential.