On May 28, City Council “establishe[d] a moratorium on the use of drones in the City of Evanston in the absence of reasonable state and federal regulation of the use of drone technology,” after concerns regarding model airplanes and Northwestern research were addressed by amendments to the original proposal, becoming one of only a handful of municipalities in the nation to take such a step. The 5-4 vote was one of the few close votes in recent Council history.
The measure was brought to Council by Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, at the urging of the North Shore Coalition for Peace, Justice and the Environment. Dickelle Fonda, speaking at citizen comment, said that drone technology remained way ahead of state or federal regulation. Marsha Bernstein, in a prepared statement read by another member, urged Council to “lead the way in slowing down,” citing fears of weaponization and collateral damage.
Several on Council opposed the measure. Colleen Burrus, 9th Ward called the resolution an effort to “limit the use of technology that has the potential to benefit residents, especially as pertains to public safety.”
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she was concerned the resolution might limit commercial and entrepreneurial enterprises within Evanston. She also said the resolution was not specific enough in defining drones and what exactly the City wanted to ban.
Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said the resolution “sends a message that we are not friendly to the research and development community.”
The supporters outweighed those opposed. Ald. Grover said Chief of Police Richard Eddington had signed off on the two-year moratorium. She admitted, when asked by Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, however, that the Chief did not ask for such a ban.
The effect of the resolution on Evanston residents is not clear. Currently, drones complete with spy cameras can be found for sale at sites such as Amazon.com for $300 or less. A resolution is not an ordinance; a few clicks of the mouse can bring a done into one’s backyard, resolution or not.