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City Council Bills Take Aim At Drones In NYC

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Two City Council members are introducing separate bills targeting the private use of drones in New York City.

Councilmen Dan Garodnick and Paul Vallone announced their legislation Wednesday.

Garodnick's proposed law would ban the devices completely -- except when used by the Police Department and only then if a warrant for their use had been issued, CBS2 reported.

"New York City is a city of 8.4 million people -- a densely populated urban environment -- and the existence of drones on any real scale presents enormous challenges for both privacy and for public safety," Garodnick said.

City Council Bills Take Aim At Drones

Vallone's bill would regulate drones by keeping them below 400 feet and far away from sensitive places such as airports, stadiums and schools, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported.

"We are not really looking to tackle someone who got a gift under the Christmas tree and they are doing it in their backyard or a park," Vallone said.

Those who break the law could face fines of up to $1,000, Vallone said.

"There will finally be something in place for NYPD and our enforcement agencies to say, 'This is not acceptable anymore,'" Vallone said.

Under Vallone's bill, using drones for surveillance -- such as spying on neighbors -- would also be prohibited. It, too, would make an exception for city agencies, such as the NYPD.

"These bills are very important steps on the road to creating some regulations in an unregulated industry and until the FAA gets their act together and passes some regulations the city once again is left to defend itself and our security and our safety is paramount probably more than anywhere else in the world," Vallone said.

"Federal regulators have failed to deliver any sensible policy here and it is left to those of us at the local level to respond," Garodnick said.

The remote-controlled, unmanned aircraft have been growing in popularity and are a hot item for the holidays.

Models with cameras start at around $150. The reasonable prices and technological improvements are expected to result in $450 million in global recreational drone sales this year.

The devices are used for aerial photography and other purposes.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been warning since the summer that drone traffic has made New York City "the Wild West of drones" and called on federal officials to speed up regulations.

Schumer said drones pose a threat to safety and privacy and have interfered with airspace. He stepped up the calls following recent sightings of drones near airports and bridges.

Federal officials are in the process of working up regulations on commercial drone use, but Schumer said he wants the process expedited because the technology is becoming much more widely used.

The Federal Aviation Administration puts recreational drones in the same category as model aircraft.

In addition to requiring that they fly below 400 feet, the FAA also suggests that drones be operated within sight of the operator, away from populated areas and away from all manned aircraft.

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