Benton Harbor considers drone restrictions

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Benton Habor, Mich. As commercial and recreational use of drones continues to grow, the City of Benton Harbor is looking to introduce regulations for unmanned aerial devices within city limits.

After a drone spotted at a public celebration last month incited several complaints from Benton Harbor residents, the topic of drone regulations made its way to the agenda at Wednesday night's legislative committee meeting.

Benton Harbor Commissioner-At-Large Mary Alice Adams said seeing drones in her neighborhood has put her on edge.

"These drone things are kind of like a total invasion of privacy," Adams told committee members.

The state and county currently have no regulations when it comes to the use of drones by both public and private entities.

Benton Harbor police do not currently utilize drones, but Michigan State Police were the first state agency to receive permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly a drone anywhere in the state for law enforcement purposes.

Benton Harbor City Commissioner Marcus Muhammad said the time has come for regulations across the board.

"If the state police and law enforcement are given certain regulations than certainly we have to give regulations to hobbyists as well as to utility companies and anyone who wants to fly drones within our airspace," Muhammad said.

City Manager Darwin Watson said that law enforcement would need to be taken into consideration when drawing up the new guidelines. Local utility companies have also requested authorization for the use of such devices.

Drone height, flight areas and liability in the case of accidents are all topics that will need to be visited before the resolution can be voted on.

"Hopefully we will be able to come up with a fair ordinance that will accommodate everybody," Muhammad said.