By Lauren DiSpirito
BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– Boulder County has changed its policy on the use of drones on open lands for scientific research and agricultural purposes on a case by case basis. The drones will be permitted in the capacity that meets those criteria.
After hearing public input on a proposed change to the county’s drone policy Tuesday, commissioners voted in favor of the new policy in a 2-0 vote, with one member absent.
Now those seeking to launch, fly and land a drone on county-owned open spaces to monitor crops, livestock, wildlife, and vegetation, or to conduct research can submit an application seeking permission from the county’s Parks and Open Space department. Staff will review applications and decide whether to consent to the requested use. The county will also allow drones to be used in emergency situations like search and rescue missions.
Boulder County will continue to prohibit the recreational use of drones. In most cases, commercial photography is also not allowed.
The change mostly impacts crop consultants and tenant farmers looking to use drones to assess their fields, said Jeff Moline, resource planning manager for Boulder County Parks and Open Space. Moline said staff came up with the proposed changes after hearing from stake holders.
“We wanted to get the input from stake holders, from the community and from the decision-makers as we formulated the policy,” Moline said. “We’ve given ourselves the regulations and codes so that we can manage that and regulate that use properly.”
Parks and Open Space staff said park visitors provide similar feedback– they do not want drones to be allowed for hobby or recreational reasons, citing privacy concerns and fear the unmanned aircraft will be used to harass wildlife.
Trevor Ycas, who owns a drone, spoke in favor of the new policy at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’m happy that the county is having these hearings,” Ycas said. “They’re taking a step right now before these things proliferate to actually put some rules in place.”
While Ycas says in some ways, the changes do not go far enough to permit drone use, they represent progress. Ycas is a volunteer fire fighter and is testing his drone now to use during search and rescue missions this summer. He hopes to one day be allowed to use it for commercial photography.
“Now I’m just waiting anxiously for the rules to really fit the needs of the community that wants to use them,” Ycas said.