Town approves drone bylaw

Jun 8, 2017 by

Published in the June 8, 2017 edition

By BILL LAFORME

NORTH READING – North Reading is now one of the few municipalities in Massachusetts to have a bylaw on the use of drones, following a vote at Monday night’s town meeting.

The drone bylaw specifically bans interference with emergency officials in their duties, prohibits the use of drones in violating a restraining order, prohibits photography in a way that violates reasonable privacy, prohibits reckless operation of a drone – including keeping them 25 feet away from others, and which requires operators to keep the devices within their visual line of sight. Offenders could face fines of up to $300 for each violation.

Several residents argued against the bylaw, citing the difficulty with enforcing it and any potential impact on people using drones in town for lawful purposes. Police Chief Mike Murphy responded to the residents in defense of the bylaw, maintain that he wanted something on the books to provide some basic protection to residents – especially amid the current absence of state laws or of much legal precedent at this point. Murphy said that North Reading Police had received a few calls about drones in recent months, and he emphasized that he does not oppose drones or their lawful use at all.

In response to concerns about the legality of the bylaw, town counsel Darren Klein reported it would still require approval by the state attorney general and also likely the Federal Aviation Administration and the state Department of Transportation’s aeronautical division.

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