Buffalo Bills

Orchard Park changes rules restricting drones at Bills games

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - There are new rules for drones in Orchard Park, just in time for Bills preseason. This comes after town officials realized their drone ordinance wouldn't fly.

The parking lot at One Bills Drive is empty now, but it won't be for much longer. A new Bills season means new rules for fans and flying drones.

“Please don't fly them near the stadium or major events at the stadium,” said Patrick Keem, Orchard Park Town Supervisor.

A drone can't take off or land within 2 miles of a stadium event -- 4 hours prior to and 4 hours after.

“Any town sponsored events you can't have a drone within 1 mile of that event for hours prior and two hours after,” said Chief Mark Pacholec with Orchard Park police.

“That's for the safety of the people that are there,” said Keem.

Orchard Park police say a drone crashed inside New Era Field after a Bills game in 2016. Officers arrested a man for flying one in the parking lot during a U2 concert last year.

Orchard Park officials realized then, even though they've had a drone ordinance since 2015, if they arrested someone those rules wouldn't really fly.

“Local law enforcement can't enforce federal law for the air. We can detain someone and seize stuff, turn it over to the feds but we can't enforce it,” said Chief Pacholec.

Only the FAA can regulate airspace. So the town board approved new rules last fall, allowing police to actually enforce them on the ground.

“We can enforce the ground where a drone would take off from or the ground where a drone would land,” said Chief Pacholec.

Police say a violation is much like a parking ticket. It isn't a misdemeanor or felony, but people could face up to a $250 fine or 15 days in jail.

If someone is caught using a drone in violation of the ordinance, police have to find where the drone is coming from. But right now, local, state and even county law enforcement agencies can't use counter-drone technology.

Chief Pacholec says there are bills being talked about in Congress to change that.


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