City of Cincinnati adds 2 drones to its toolkit

Spokesman says they're not in use yet
Posted at 9:26 PM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-22 21:27:25-04

CINCINNATI -- It's a story that could've slipped under the radar: The city of Cincinnati has purchased not one, but two drones.

Before you fly off the handle with privacy concerns, city spokesman Rocky Merz said they're not airborne yet. And any city staffer who wants to fly a drone has to check with the city's law department for guidance.

Merz revealed the drone purchases Monday as part of a new policy governing their use.

The city plans to follow new rules from the Federal Aviation Administration, meaning staffers won't need prior FAA approval under these conditions:

  • Operators pass a test and are vetted by the TSA.
  • The drone weighs less than 55 pounds.
  • The operator has eyes on the drone at all times and flies during the daytime.
  • The drone never goes higher than 400 feet or faster than 100 mph.
  • The operator isn't in a moving vehicle.
  • The drone isn't flown above people or carrying hazardous materials.

So far, the Cincinnati Police Department, Fire Department, Metropolitan Sewer District and Greater Cincinnati Water Works have shown interest in using drones. Firefighters or police officers might use them to check out a potentially dangerous situation without risking their own safety. A drone also could collect large amounts of information on water service delivery that might take a person or crew of workers days to do.

City Manager Harry Black's new policy says privacy concerns are paramount:

"Prior to operation, departments will consult with the Law Department to ensure all applicable local, state and federal regulations are adhered to when intended operation of a (drone) could potentially infringe on the privacy of citizens."

There won't be any especially detailed regulations or parameters, at least for now; that's because city departments are likely to have very different needs and uses for drones.

But there are some things city workers cannot do:

  • They can't bring their own drone to work.
  • They can't use a personal drone while on the job.
  • They can't operate a drone at work if they're not qualified.
  • They can't use a city-owned drone for anything other than work.
  • They can't take a city-owned drone from their workplace except to take it somewhere for work purposes.

By the way, WCPO has asked if the drone duo might duel. We'll let you know what we hear.