PGC plan to ban drones is grounded
Harrisburg — Turns out, it was the Game Commission’s drone-control plan – and not drones – that didn’t fly.
That’s because the state Attorney General’s Office reviewed the agency’s proposed regulation to prohibit the flying of drones over state game lands and said “no way.”
The legal reviewers notified the commission that only the Federal Aviation Administration can manage airspace.
“The Game Commission has no legal authority to regulate airspace,” commission assistant counsel Jason Raup told commissioners.
“They shared a document with us that reviewed the issue of pre-emption from a federal perspective that says they own the airspace from 1 inch above the ground to space.”
He pointed out that a “virtual ceiling” of 400 feet has been put on drone use by the feds.
As an alternative, Raup suggested to commissioners that they change the wording in the regulation.
“The best the commission is going to be able to do is prohibit people from launching drones from or landing drones on game lands,” Raup said.
Commissioner Bob Schlemmer, of Westmoreland County, said he had heard from hunters who are concerned about drone users launching their unmanned aerial craft – or UAVs – from private land near game lands and interfering with hunters.
“What is to keep them from using their drones to harass hunters?” he asked.
Raup noted that there already are regulations on the books to deal with that offense.
“The proposed regulations were never intended to address harassment of wildlife or hunters,” he said.
“This regulation does not address those concerns, but there are statutory provisions that address harassment of wildlife and hunters that we currently enforce. This regulation was originally intended to apply solely to drone flying over game lands.”
Commission law enforcement chief Tom Grohol suggested making the game lands no-fly zones after several photographers using drones disturbed waterfowl at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in the late winter.
At least two were cited for harassing wildlife, he reported at the time.
Raup told commissioners that an amended version of the regulation would be ready for their approval and final adoption at their July meeting.