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A ban on drones failed to soar through City Council Monday night after opponents raised questions about its impact on academic research — and toys.

An image from the Brookstone online catalog of a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 quadricopter for sale for $299.99.

A ban on drones failed to soar through City Council Monday night after opponents raised questions about its impact on academic research — and toys.

The ban is being sought by a coalition of peace activists concerned about military use of drones overseas and fearful about their potential use by police agencies here at home.

But the resolution introduced at their behest by Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, would place a moratorium on any use of unmanned aerial vehicles in Evanston for two years — ostensibly to give state and federal officials time to develop more comprehensive regulations for use of the devices.

The ban won unanimous approval from the five aldermen on the Human Services Committee last week, but came under fire Monday night.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said she objected to the idea “that it’s progressive to have moratoriums on new technology.”

“We should have laws that outlaw bad uses of the technology instead,” the mayor added.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she’d spoken with a Northwestern University professor who’s working on unmanned aerial vehicles who wanted to know whether police would be showing up to arrest him and his students who might be testing them in public parks.

Fiske suggested any restrictions should be “very specifically written to focus on warfare and privacy.”

Grover. in response, claimed that the resolution would not be a restriction on research — although there is no such exemption in the text of the resolution.

She also said that residents are very concerned about possible invasions of privacy from drones.

Alderman Don Wilson said he generally supports the moratorium, but “it’s certainly not meant to apply to a remote control airplane or other model technology.”

“I don’t want it to apply to children’s playthings,” Wilson said.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he saw drones being sold at the Brookstone store at O’Hare airport.

“If we adopt this,” he said, police and code enforcement officers will be getting phone calls. We just need to know what the parameters are.”

City Attorney Grant Farrar said he would need to do more research to determine what sorts of drone use should be prohibited, and that he would want to look at state Senate debate on the issue.

The Senate has approved a bill introduced by State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston that would regulate use of drones by police agencies in Illinois, but the bill has not yet been acted on in the state House.

The aldermen opted to delay action on the measure until at least May 28 to give city staff time to do further research on the issue.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. Is that kid an Evanston resident?

    I'd rather the City Council were more specific in their ban, and more efficient. Why don't we combine our drone ban with our nuclear-free zone, and have a ban on nuclear drones?

    1. The kid in the picture

      That kid in the picture is probably not an Evanston resident, but you can buy the quadcopter shown in that photo at the Radio Shack in downtown Evanston.

  2. Go fly a kite

    It's my understanding that miniature cameras are so small and lightweight that they can be attached to a kite.

    Will the city council consider banning kites next?

  3. Keep robots legal!

    Google is working to make self-driving cars a reality — and Evanston is working to prevent that type of innovation from being done here. Good job!

    Don't assume the moratorium is carefully written to allow sensible uses of flying robots. It is a blanket ban on anyone flying anything that could be considered a drone (which they do not define) in Evanston:

     

     

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