By DENISE GRANT
There are more and more unmanned aerial systems, commonly known as drones, taking flight in Findlay and Hancock County, but Findlay Airport Manager Matt McVicker said so far everyone is playing by the rules.
Drone operators who fly for a hobby operate under the same Federal Aviation Administration guidelines as model aircraft.
Commercial drone operators must be licensed.
“In Findlay, we ask that drones not be flown within five miles of the airport,” McVicker said.
Findlay Airport, at 1615 Gray St., is an open-field airport with no control tower. The rules would be different around bigger airports with control towers, he said. In some cases, no use of drones or model planes would be permitted.
Owners can get themselves in trouble, McVicker said, by “wandering into places they shouldn’t be.”
McVicker recommends the FAA device app: B4UFLY.
The app enables drone and model aircraft operators to check local airspace restrictions.
Currently, the City of Findlay does not have its own ordinance governing the use of drones, but McVicker said officials have discussed it.
“The problem is, as soon as you have an ordinance, the technology changes, and there are different issues,” he said.
That’s true even of the FAA, he said. The FAA is attempting to integrate and allow for safe drone use within the nation’s airspace without being overly restrictive.
Under current FAA guidelines, drones should be flown at or below 400 feet and a safe distance from surrounding obstacles. Operators should keep their drone within sight at all times and never fly near other aircraft.
The guidelines state that drones should not be flown over stadiums, sport events or other groups of people. Operators also should not fly drones near emergency response efforts, such as fires.
Operators should also not fly while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Hobby drones should not be over 55 pounds, according to the guidelines.
Careless or reckless operation that endangers other people, property or aircraft could result in charges and fines.
McVicker said there is not a specific charge for reckless operation of a drone. Charges are left to the discretion of the investigating law enforcement official, but could include offenses like reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, voyeurism or inciting violence.
There have been no complaints about drone use to the Findlay Police Department or the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office. Both police and sheriff’s deputies have recovered drones that were lost by their owners.