Drones allowed in Genesee County parks after judge's order

PHOTO: Drone, Photo Date: November 24, 2014 (Source: Andrew Turner / CC BY 2.0)
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GENESEE COUNTY (WJRT) (2/12/2020) - A Genesee County judge has struck down the county's ban on drones and unmanned aircraft flying over parks.

Judge Joseph Farah issued an injunction Monday in a lawsuit filed by a man arrested for flying a drone at Crossroads Village in December 2018.

The drone pilot, Robert Harrison, was not criminally charged for the incident. However, the Genesee County Parks Commission amended its rules five days later to specifically outlaw drones.

A few months later last spring, a group of drone pilots planned a "fly-in" at the E.A. Cummings Center operated by the parks commission. The facility was closed after park rangers learned of the event.

The pilots instead moved to Richfield County Park on Irish Road last April. Genesee County park rangers met the group there and informed them anyone flying drones could face a misdemeanor charge.

That prompted Harrison and the Michigan Coalition of Drone Operators to sue the county. They claimed the ban on drones is not allowed under Michigan law.

Farah issued an injunction that stops the parks commission from enforcing its ban on drones. He ruled the drone ban does not follow state and federal laws, which allow drones anywhere in Michigan as long as the pilot abides by federal regulations.

Pilots still must avoid flying drones in a manner that harasses the public, interferes with emergency services or for any nefarious purpose.