The issue was brought up this week, when the Amherst Town Board considered whether it needs a policy on these “unmanned aircraft systems” amid privacy concerns town residents are raising.
Drones are unmanned aircraft piloted remotely or by onboard computers and used largely by the military for special operations, although there’s growing debate nationwide about using drones for other purposes, like policing and surveillance.
And while private drones may not be common right now, concern over their potential to proliferate was enough for some Amherst residents – led by former Town Supervisor and Council Member Daniel J. Ward – to request a local law regulating drones in Amherst.
But, Amherst officials explained Monday, it’s the Federal Aviation Administration, not the town, that has this authority. Town officials, however, could at least prohibit the use of drones by the municipality or one of its contractors until the state and federal governments put regulations in place.
That was proposed by Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein, who acknowledged it’s on the periphery of the board’s duties as town officials. Council Member Mark A. Manna proposed a similar but separate resolution.
“Amherst can’t control its own airspace, but the little we can do I think we should,” Manna said.
The Town Board agreed to refer both resolutions to the town’s Government Studies Committee for a recommendation.