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Should you have the honor of attending this years Masters Tournament you may breathe easy – no pesky drones will disturb your golf gazing.  I doubt you were concerned to begin with.  You probably hadn’t even considered the idea.

Never apt to miss out on a non-issue the idiots of the Augusta City Commission has outlawed the (private) use of unmanned aircraft during this year’s tournament. “Hoping to prevent a drone disruption at this year’s Masters Tournament, Augusta commissioners approved a county-wide ban on launching or operating the remote-controlled aircraft between April 2 and April 13.”  Susan McCord, Drone ban in effect April 2-13, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, March 18, 2015.

The reasoning behind the ban is as solid as the air above the Augusta National: “Drones ‘have gotten very sophisticated,’ and Augusta has a ‘very big, international event’ coming up, said sheriff’s Col. Robert Partain.”  This is as logically connected as saying there are a lot of people in India and pillows are very soft, thus we must own lawnmowers…


(Bad drone.  Google Images.)

I was not present for the drafting, discussion or voting on this ordinance.  I really don’t think that matters.  The thing smells funny.  The Chronicle mentions a single incident whereby an event was disrupted by a drone – one event in Europe.  I have heard of no threat posed by non-government drones in America.  Government drones are another story; see: Don’t Drone Me, Bro! and Droning On and On.


(Good drone.  Google.)

Other American cities (Charlottesville, VA, Syracuse, NY, etc.) have previously banned drones.  However, their bans are directed towards drones nefariously used by government agents in an effort to defend civil liberties.  Charlottesville, home of Thomas Jefferson’s home and University, has a “long tradition of promoting civil liberties.” Augusta has a long tradition of the opposite kind.

Here follows the pertinent and sensible resolutions of Syracuse’s ordinance:

BE IT RESOLVED, that this Resolution declares that no agency of the City of Syracuse, nor any agents under contract with the City, will operate Drones in the airspace over the City of Syracuse until federal and state laws, rules and regulations regarding the use of Drones are adopted that adequately protects the privacy of the population as guaranteed by the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Syracuse Common Council urges our Federal and State officials to create and adopt such laws, rules and regulations regarding the use of Drones which ensures Constitutional protections of individuals; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, to the extent permitted by law, it is the policy of this Common Council that no Drones will be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested or otherwise utilized by the City of Syracuse or its agencies, directly or through contract, until such Constitutional safeguards are in place, the appropriate personnel are trained and fully authorized by the FAA to safely operate Drones and that the Corporation Counsel of the City of Syracuse certifies that all City of Syracuse personnel engaged in the use of Drones have been trained in federal, state and local privacy laws, regulations, and enforcement mechanisms affecting drone operations and any data collected by drone operations…

Note that this ordinance is aimed at ensuring “Constitutional protections of individuals.” The Georgia version ensures a media monopoly for a single sporting event at the expense of the liberty of hundreds of thousands of individuals in the surrounding area. It is as stupid and illegal as it is unnecessary.

The National naturally desires to keep the most prestigious sporting event in the world private.  That is understandable; they have a right to privacy.  Happily, their rights and the rights of their patrons and golfers are protected by existing laws.  Flying a drone over the property without permission already would constitute a trespass and a nuisance – prohibited by both existing criminal and civil tort law.

Now, should you, as a news reporter, wish to film from the air the crowd entering the National patron gate, you are out of luck.  If you’re the President needing to remotely bomb demonstrators (terrorists), no problem.  A real estate broker surveying land, not this week.  A cop spying on a gardener, sure, why not.  Concerned citizen keeping an eye on one of the cops’ illegal roadblocks, you are a criminal.  See where this is going?

Something tells me that, if challenged, the Augusta ordinance will fall in Court – after the tournament is over, of course.  I have already heard of plans to defy the law.  One aviator proposes to use a balloon or kite to launch a camera skyward.  Whether the city defines these devices as drones or not they will likely prosecute this man.  They will lose. They will face a lawsuit.  Those hundreds of thousands of citizens whose liberties have been infringed will be forced to pay damages.  Sadly, those citizens will continue to re-elect the Commission.  The beat goes on.

If you come to Augusta for the tournament, enjoy it.  You’ll have a great, drone free experience.  If you live in the Garden City, consider moving somewhere else where your rights are valued.