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Kyle to regulate drone usage at mass gatherings

Mass gatherings in Kyle, such as the annual Pie in the Sky festival, will now go through additional scrutiny before the first patron ever enters the gate.

On Aug. 6, the Kyle City Council voted 6-0 to amend the city’s existing mass gathering ordinance allowing city staff and Kyle Police to review and approve specific details for a proposed event, including the use of drones.

According to the updated ordinance, promoters of a mass gathering must submit a description of security measures that will be taken, as well as a parking plan. Promoters must also let officials know if drones will be used and must give a description of how the device will be utilized.

Additionally, the updated language allows Kyle’s Police Chief the authority to approve the specific date and time of the event, as well as give the green light for road closures, drone use and decide if there is any need for additional security measures. A permit must receive approval from Kyle’s Police Chief no later than 10 days before the event takes place.

In 2014, Kyle city leaders approved an ordinance requiring promoters of a mass gathering, defined as an event with more than 1,000 people, to file an application for a permit no later than 45 days before the scheduled event date. The permit was subject to approval from Kyle Police and Kyle Fire Department but did not specify information about security or parking.

Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett said the ordinance update was made after issues with parking and the high volume of parked and moving vehicles on the roads during the events. More events springing up in Kyle also led to the rule changes.

But some city leaders expressed concern regarding the ordinance and how it could impact the city’s practice of using its own drones at city events.

Per the rules, Kyle officials must talk to police to get permission to fly drones during city-sponsored mass gatherings.   

Barnett said the ordinance effectively bans drone use at mass gatherings unless otherwise determined by him. The ordinance only applied to mass gatherings however and does not regulate drone use in its entirety during other situations.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires drone operators to obtain a permit if they plan to fly their device more than 400 feet in the air.

“The city tends to utilize drones at our mass gatherings,” said council member Tracy Scheel. “Often times it is to promote them.”

However, Barnett said he plans to deny all drone usage during the Pie in the Sky balloon festival as he considers them a flight risk.

“That’s a flight area where you have hot air balloon,” Barnett said. “In general, I’m not saying every drone, but we do not want citizens bringing their drones.”

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