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Pima County: Parks still a no-fly zone for drones

Buzz kill for some, but silence is golden for others

Gates Pass at sunset isn't the place for that drone you might find under the Christmas tree, Pima County officials said. Radio-controlled aircraft, including quadcopters and other drones, have been prohibited in county parks and open space areas for years.

"We've heard that individuals have been flying drones at very low elevations over the heads of other park users and at park-based events," said Kerry Baldwin, Natural Resources division manager for the county. "One group was flying multiple drones over the overlook at Gates Pass when the afternoon sunset crowd had gathered, with little regard to any potential safety issues or the loud and shrill sound generated by the small aircraft engines."

Update: How grounded is Pima County's rule on R/C aircraft? Read Feds shooting down local drone bans

Baldwin said the Pima County Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation Department is getting numerous noise complaints from patrons of the quieter parks such as Tucson Mountain Park and Agua Caliente Park.

"We also have reports of individuals using drones in ways that harasses wildlife, which is a violation of state and federal law," Baldwin said in a news release put out to remind the public of the ban.

Federal natural resource agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and the National Park Service have similar restrictions on drone use.

A new federal law requires all private drone owners to sign up with the Federal Aviation Administration Unmanned Aircraft System registry by Feb. 19.

But Baldwin warned that drones are still banned at parks whether they are registered or not.

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There are several private clubs that operate airstrips for model aircraft, including drones, Baldwin said. The city of Tucson allows model aircraft to be flown at Christopher Columbus Park on North Silverbell Road, while Oro Valley allows drone owners with insurance to fly north of the sports fields at Naranja Park.

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