City Council

City Council Approves Ban on Drones Near Airports, Schools

City Council approved a measure Wednesday that would ban drones from flying near airports and schools, among other designated places in Chicago.

According to Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward), who was one of the sponsors of the legislation, Chicago is the first large U.S. city to adopt such rules on drones.

The measure was first introduced to the council in July by Ald. Burke and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward). The new rules ban drones from flying within five miles of an airport and within a quarter of a mile from schools, hospitals and places of worship.

The rules also prohibit drones from flying at an altitude of more than 400 feet, and drones will not be allowed to fly directly over people or personal property without consent of the person or property owner. The measure also includes a rule that makes it illegal to fly drones between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Chicago residents who own drones will also be required to register the drones for a cost of $50 each year, and they will have to take out an insurance policy to cover personal injury and property damage.

After the measure was first introduced, amendments were made to extend the ban to areas near power lines, water treatment plants and city water intake facilities.

Ald. Waguespack added that hobbyists and commercial users of drones will be able to continue flying them, but the new rules allow law enforcement to take action for reckless drone use.

"As we move forward in the future, this kind of technology changes so rapidly that we'll have to modify the ordinance in years to come," Ald. Waguespack said.

The measure was first introduced in response to a series of incidents in which drones caused security breaches or dangerous situations, such as when a drone crashed into a tree on a White House lawn in January. On July 21, a "toy drone" also crashed at Midway International Airport while the U.S. National Guard was conducting a Blackhawk helicopter training mission.

Violators of the new rules will face fines ranging from $500 to $5,000 per incident and could face up to 180 days in jail.

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