Evanston aldermen Tuesday night carved out exceptions for toys and research before adopting a two-year ban on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the city on a 5-4 vote.

Dickelle Fonda speaking in favor of the drone ban.

Evanston aldermen Tuesday night carved out exceptions for toys and research before adopting a two-year ban on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the city on a 5-4 vote.

The resolution would appear to ban a variety of potential commercial uses of the craft — ranging from real estate videos to environmental monitoring.

But since the measure was adopted as a resolution, rather than an ordinance, and includes no penalty provisions, it’s not clear whether it is enforceable — beyond serving to torpedo any purchase of the aircraft by the city’s police department.

An email message to the city’s corporation counsel this morning inquiring about enforcement of the ban was not immediately returned.

A number of anti-war activists, including Dickelle Fonda of the North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice, lobbied Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, to introduce the moratorium resolution.

They cited a variety of concerns — ranging from potential privacy violations to the possible use of weaponized drones by police.

But the four aldemen who voted against the resolution offered a variety of criticisms of it.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said the technology has the prospect of helping residents — particularily in the area of public safety.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said the city needs to pay attention to the positive applications of drone technology and that the resolution was not specific enough to address the concerns of the peace groups.

Fiske said she didn’t want to limit commercial and entrepreneurial applications of drones, or work at Northwestern University tied to automation and robotics.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said the resolution made it look like Evanston is scared of new technology. He said the city should deal with the concernes raised in more appropriate and very specific ways.

Grover defended the proposal saying the police chief doesn’t believe he needs drone technology now.

And another supporter, Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said he didn’t think the city was ready to use drone technology anyway — but that he’s not in support of a generalized moratorium against technology.

Domestic use of drones is an issue that’s drawn concern in other forums in recent months and Evanston’s resolution was to some extent inspired by one adopted in another college town, Charlottesville, Va., in February.

The state legislature is considering a bill introduced by State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that would provide statewide standards for police use of drones.

Related stories

Drop the drone ban (5/14/13)

Would you deny this kid his toy? (5/14/13)

Panel backs two-year ban on drone use (5/7/13)

Senate OKs Biss bill limiting police use of drones (4/18/13)

Should Evanston police have drones? (2/18/13)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. A 5-4 vote?

    This is interesting…a 5-4 vote, not the usual 7-2 or 8-1 votes that I am used to seeing from Council. It also isn't too common to see Burrus and Fiske on the same side. It sounds like a pointless law to me…but if Fiske opposed it, then I am glad to see it passed.

  2. Deja Vu

    This reminds me of when NU and the city tried to work out arrangements for the Reserach Park.  It took forever when several Council members had one line "Nuclear Free Zone" when anyone wanted to talk about the Park.  Thus it got delayed, and as I recall, the result was a bad plan and agreement between NU and the city.

    The Council seems to look for [non-existent] problems to solve. So they can "look good" and placate their liberal base ?  "Ready, Fire, Aim."  Usually bad law results as we have seen so many times over the years from Council edicts, lawsuits against NU, and wanting to stay in the 18th century with zoning laws and plans for the city.  Hopefully by 2100 they will have got to the 20th century.

    1. Remember the downtown Dominicks Store?

      After it was torn down, the city council spent over seven years holding hearings and debating if it should allow Century 21 to open a multiplex theater in its place.   And Sears decided not to open a store at the condominium building at Davis and Sherman after it saw the hoops they would have to jump through.

      Ladies an gentlemen, this is what the historical Evanston city council was and is!  May God bless "The Republic of Evanston"  for years and years to come.

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