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Pittsburgh poised to allow companies using drones to film in parks

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A Phantom 3 drone during a test flight at the West Mifflin Area High School in December 2015.

Filmmakers would be permitted to use drones for shooting scenes and photographs over Pittsburgh-owned property, including parks, under legislation City Council is considering.

Council on Wednesday unanimously approved the bill during a preliminary vote. A final vote is expected Tuesday.

“We’re just trying to, shall we say, allow the movie industry, the television industry, to use drones within the city parks and to have a mechanism where we’re aware of it and that we can monitor it, make sure the operators are appropriately licensed and that they’re not doing anything that would be dangerous to public safety,” Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said during a council meeting.

Council in 2015 banned the use of drones in parks, describing them as a nuisance and threat to public safety.

The Federal Aviation Administration has struggled to regulate drones as popularity across the United States has increased their usage in recent years. The agency limits them to below 400 feet and at least five miles from airports.

Under the bill, commercial drone operators would have to obtain a film permit from the city, have an FAA-approved license and insurance.

Brian Katze, Pittsburgh’s special events manager, said the city has not yet determined how much a permit would cost.

“Production companies would apply to the city as they do now for feature films, TV shows, commercials, and if they request to use a drone right now there’s processes in place to get it approved. But if it was requested for a park space, it’s currently banned by code,” Katze said. “What this amendment does is allows us to look at it, even if it was a request for a park, to put the controls on it to allow it inside the one place it’s actually banned right now.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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