Boulder County commissioners have approved the use of unmanned flying aircraft aka “drones” over Boulder County’s open spaces. What does this mean for you?

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An example of a small hobby drone

Boulder County has approved the use of unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS for short, on/above Boulder County property. The craft may take off, fly, and land on city-owned public lands. But not just anyone can fly their own craft over Boulder. Only UAS working on pre-approved agricultural and scientific research projects will be permitted.

The hope for the UAS is that they will improve the yield of locally grown crops. Agricultural operations can gain new insights into how the crops are doing, the effectiveness of fertilizers, and overall yields. Another use for these aircraft is assessing wildlife populations and aiding conservation efforts.

Public safety use is another important consideration for UAS. Having an eye in the sky during  floods, wildfires, or other natural disasters would be very helpful in managing these crises. Search and rescue is greatly improved by these machines.

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A UAS surveying some crops

As stated above, hobby and recreational UAS flight will not be permitted even though public UAS use has been approved. This ban also extends to private commercial use of UAS. It is possible that these regulations may expand in the future to accommodate more widespread use of UAS, but we won’t know for a while.

Just to clarify, these are not “surveillance drones” or any kind of tool for public oppression. The operators of UAS are paid to study crop yields and monitor wildlife habitats. They are not interested in your daily commute or extracurricular activities. So put those tin foils hats in the recycling bin.

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