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Oyster Bay Town Board reconsiders plans to restrict drones

Tyler Barkin, left, and Scott Harrigan, both from

Tyler Barkin, left, and Scott Harrigan, both from Oyster Bay, with drone models. The Oyster Bay Town Board is discussing regulating drone use. Credit: Douglas Barkin

Oyster Bay Town officials plan to revise proposed restrictions for operators of drones above town property.

Hobbyists and commercial operators at a Tuesday hearing asked the town board to make changes to the proposal such as issuing seasonal permits rather than single-use permits, allowing alternative ways to show proof of insurance, and revising language to specify where drones could land and take off — rather than where they could fly.

Under the proposal, people or companies seeking to fly drones — unmanned aircraft — over town property could apply for a permit from the town and would have to provide information about the equipment, the date and time it would fly, and proof of insurance. Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said at the hearing that a $75 permit fee in the original proposal was being removed.

Saladino said the purpose of the local law was “to protect the privacy of our residents and ensure the safety of our children, especially in our parks, pools, beaches and town facilities.”

Councilman Joseph Muscarella urged the board to pass the law Tuesday and amend it later, but Councilman Anthony Macagnone and Councilwoman Michele Johnson objected and sought to postpone the vote. The board went into an executive session, came out and announced that no vote would be taken.

“We realized this might not have been the right time to vote on this,” Macagnone said. “We need more information.”

Scott Harrigan, 27, the owner of Harkin Aerial, an Oyster Bay-based company that uses drones to shoot commercial video, told the board that some language in the proposal about airspace was vague and already covered by Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

“We’d like to see that tightened to not be a permit for airspace requirements so much as a permit to operate the drone on town property,” Harrigan said. He also suggested that concerns about noise and privacy be addressed in the town’s privacy and noise codes “to punish the bad operator and not place a burden on permitting for every single flight.”

Several speakers suggested the town accept membership in the Academy of Model Aeronautics, an Indiana-based organization for model aircraft operators, as proof of insurance since it provides liability coverage to all members.

Other municipalities around Long Island have addressed limiting drone use in public places.

Hempstead Town officials last year banned flying drones over town properties, beaches and parks. Babylon Village, which is considering adopting an ordinance limiting recreational drone usage, held a public hearing on its proposal on Tuesday but postponed a vote after a drone user raised concerns about it.

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