A South Elgin man is threatening to file suit against the City of Evanston if aldermen Monday approve an ordinance restricting the recreational use of drones in town.

Keith Kmieciak has already gotten his home town to dramatically loosen drone restrictions officials imposed there last year forbidding flights in any public park.

Kmieciak and his attorney, Jeff Antonelli, argue that only the Federal Aviation Administration, not local governments, has the authority to regulate use of airspace.

The Evanston ordinance, which was introduced without discussion on June 12, would require recreational users of drones to have the permission of the owner of any property in the city before flying over it.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, requested in April that the city develop new drone regulations, saying she had learned that the daughter of a resident had been hit by a drone on a local playground.

Police Cmdr. Joseph Dugan says Evanston police have only received one call complaining about drones so far this year.

Consumer drone sales totalled well over 10 million units last year and are forecast to rise to nearly 68 million a year by 2021.

The proposed Evanston ordinance does not provide any clear mechanism for granting permission for drone flights over public land and doesn’t designate any public spaces where drone use would be routinely permitted.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. FAA rules

    The FAA already regulates drones.

    Meanwhile, there are already legal remedies available to people who are hit by a drone (or any other object under someone else’s control). 
    Perhaps the aldermen might invite Mr. Kmieciak to present his arguments and ideas. That seems like a reasonable and logical first step, rather than getting involved in a lawsuit. 

    1. Working with City Leaders

      I would welcome any opportunity to sit down with Evanston leaders.  The problem, I called the city manager’s office and was told that the city attorney has done enough research that he feels this ordinance does have merit.  This is exactly the same attitude South Elgin had when I was cited for flying my UAV over public property.  I am not looking for a fight, I am looking for an ordinance that makes sense.

      1. After reading the statute

        I think you have a good point. The statute even (presumably unintentionally) bans the use of kites in city parks. Heck, it probably even bans wiffle balls and frisbees in city parks given the breadth of the definition of “aircraft.” I hope you can convince the city they are wrong on this one. 

    2. Noise? Privacy? Quality of life?

      I hope the Evanston leaders uphold the ban, even if it involves taking on every litigious out of towner who thinks he knows what’s best for our citizens.

  2. drones

    Why is this man from Elgin filing a lawsuit about a space so far from home?  I’m thinking drones are a potential menace to birds, vegetation, and humans. I hope the FAA can see it’s way to protecting our air space.  Is it not coceivable that drones might get in the way of planes as they land or take off?

    1. Rules

      The FAA has adopted a comprehensive set of rules — which among other things limit drone flights to below 400 feet, restrict their use near airports and over crowds of people — that address the concerns you raise.

      — Bill

  3. Support of Reasonable Drone Regulations

    On Memorial Day this year, I was in my fenced in back yard when I heard a high pitch whining noise. When I turned to see what it was, I came face to face with a small drone and nearly lost an eye. Come to find out it was two very young children operating it without any adult supervision. I would wholeheartedly support at least a ban prohibiting them from being operated in others’ private property. I’ve never been a big fan of drones, but I’ve always been a big fan of public safety and privacy.

    1. Small children …

      I’m not sure an ordinance has ever stopped small children from occasionally behaving foolishly.

      — Bill

      1. You got that right!

        Quite a few years ago, an arrow with a very sharp metal tip flew into my yard while my children were napping.  By assessing its direction, only two neighbors’ backyards were possible origins. 

        Turns out that the divorced dad (who lived elsewhere) decided that it was a great idea to purchase a real bow and arrow set for his two children.  Both of them were less than 10 years old.  Mom had left them home alone and, despite her instructions not to use the bow and arrow at the house, they decided to shoot at an animal in a tree and the arrow flew into our yard.

        How many levels of stupid going on?  Purchased the dangerous item for a child.  Kept the dangerous item within the child’s easy reach.  Left the child unsupervised.

        So drones are not the only dangerous flying things that children can use in a stupid manner (especially when unsupervised).  But if we try to legislate against all stupid behavior, we will be at it for quite a while.  Regulation of drones over and above what the FAA requires does not make sense as litigation is virtually certain and the city will lose. 

  4. Drone Deliveries

    Will the proposed Drone Ban  prevent businesses from making deliveries? How will it be enforced?

    1. Deliveries

      Deliveries would be a commercial use, and the proposed city ordinance doesn’t attempt to regulate commercial uses — which are more tightly regulated than recreational uses by the FAA. (Commercial users have to get a drone pilot’s license from the FAA, for example.)

      At the moment the big regulatory impediment to drone deliveries is probably an FAA requirement that the pilot must always have the drone within direct line-of-sight view.

      — Bill

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