By Danielle Savage
Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission is proposing an ordinance to make the City of Berkeley a No Drone Zone.
The proposed ban is on the agenda for next Tuesday’s City Council meeting. If the ordinance passes, flying of a drone in the airspace of Berkeley will be regarded as a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Without such an ordinance, “The average citizen will be subject to fourth amendment violations… I don’t trust my government to follow the Constitution,” said commission head Robert Meola.
But City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín of District 4 is not comfortable with a blanket condemnation of drones. “If using drones could assist in identifying serious crimes, to me I don’t have a general opposition to that. [Drones] could be beneficial,” he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration started generating permits for the use of drones in the U.S. in 2006. Congress endorsed the use of domestic unarmed drones earlier this year.
The concerns about domestic drones tend to focus on infringed privacy. “It needs a lot of discussion,” said City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli of District 5.
“Drone technology now can pick up people’s texts messages [and] they can do facial recognition,” said Arreguín.
However, according to Meola, drones also pose safety problems and are known to go out of control and crash.
Meanwhile, Alameda County is considering purchasing a done. However, according to Wired.com, plans were delayed a couple of weeks ago due to complaints by civil rights groups who criticized county authorities for “rushing the plan without public input.”
Arreguín argues the Berkeley proposal needs to be rewritten. “The reality is that there may be some specific situations where drones can be used. I think the way it’s written right now is a little bit extreme,” he said.
Meola considers the ordinance an important step “Hopefully it will set a standard for other cities around the country to follow,” he said. I’m hoping it will set a trend to speak out.”