OR: Mt. Ashland Ski Area bans most drone use


By Vickie Aldous Mail Tribune

Mt. Ashland Ski Area officials have declared the area a “no drone zone.”
Under a new policy that went into effect Dec. 23, people may not fly drones over the ski area without prior written permission from managers.

“It’s not appropriate to have drones flying over crowds or chairlifts,” said Hiram Towle, ski area general manager. “We can’t have an unskilled drone operator crashing a drone down on skiers and snowboarders.”

Signs have been put up at the ski area informing the public about the new policy.

“Out of safety concerns for guests, employees and resort property, as well as concerns about individual privacy, Mt. Ashland Ski Area prohibits operation or use of unmanned aerial systems, or drones, by the general public — including recreational users and hobbyists — without the prior written authorization from Mt. Ashland management,” the signs read.

The prohibition applies to drones launched from the ski area or flying over the ski area.

The policy also applies to journalists.

People who fly drones without permission could face negative consequences.

“Any violation of this policy may involve suspension of your skiing or snowboarding privileges, or the revocation of your season pass, as well as confiscation of any drone equipment, and may subject violators to any damages, including, but not limited to, damages for violations of privacy and/or physical or personal injuries or property damage, as well as regulatory fines and legal fees,” the signs warn.

Anyone who is given permission to fly must follow all regulations regarding drones. Ski area managers may require certification, training, insurance coverage, indemnification requirements and waivers or releases of liability.

Towle said if anyone is granted permission to fly over the ski area, it would likely be commercial drone operators.

The ski area already has been approached by commercial operators who would like to video the area from the air for marketing purposes, Towle said.

If a commercial operator is ever granted authorization, the operator would have to follow safety measures devised by ski area managers, such as not flying near crowds or chairlifts, he said.

Some ski areas already have teamed with commercial drone operators to shoot marketing video. Some commercial operators have offered personalized video services to skiers and snowboarders who want their exploits captured.

With drone use on the rise, the National Ski Areas Association has crafted sample drone policy language for ski areas to adopt.

The policy language on the “no drone zone” signs at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area is similar to language adopted by many ski areas around the country.

While voicing concerns about drone dangers, officials with the National Ski Areas Association also have pointed to potential benefits from drones. They could be used to inspect chairlifts, for marketing purposes and to help in search-and-rescue operations.

Earlier this week, three snowboarders became lost after they went outside the Mt. Ashland Ski Area’s boundaries. They were rescued after spending a night out in the cold and were treated for mild hypothermia.

Internationally, drones were banned from World Cup races after a drone with a television camera crashed and shattered just a few feet from Austrian skier Marcel Hirscher during a December race.

Towle said the Mt. Ashland Ski Area does not regulate helmet-mounted GoPro video cameras that have become increasingly common on the mountain.

He said helmet-mounted cameras don’t pose the same safety risk as aerial drones.

Skiers and snowboarders also use their cellphones to shoot video at the ski area — sometimes while on the move.

Visitors have spotted parents on the Sonnet beginners’ hill skiing or snowboarding while filming their children learning to ski or ride.

Towle said if unsafe behavior is observed regarding cellphone cameras, the ski patrol may step in to remind people to focus on their own skiing or snowboarding. But mainly, it’s up to visitors to use common sense.

“We rely on people’s personal judgment to do the right thing,” he said.


OH: Drone found in New Middletown still unclaimed



A camera-equipped drone found in a New Middletown back yard remains unclaimed. Police say the drone was found in the yard of a home on Struthers Road.

“It landed in the back yard next to a dog but it didn’t cause any problems with the dog,” Sgt. Ken Goist of the New Middletown Police Department said.

The sergeant says even though this particular drone is rather light it is capable of causing injury.

“This one is plastic, but again a plastic propeller can still cause damage and if it’s traveling at a high rate of speed it could cause a serious injury,” said Goist.

The memory card from the drone camera was blank. Apparently it was not recording during the flight. The government says an estimated 400-thousand people found drones under their Christmas tree this year.

Chuck Allen says he sold more than 200 drones at his Hobby Time shop in the Truck World Mall.  Under a new government regulation drone owners have until February 19th to register any drone weighing more than half a pound.

“If you go on their web site it will tell you whether your drone needs registered or not. I don’t think the web site is quite up to date yet, there’s so many of these on the market now,” said Allen.

Owners must register their name and address. Then you are issued a sticker that you affix to your drone.  Registration is free for the first 30 days, then there will be a five dollar registration fee.

The New Middletown drone does not have any identification and police don’t know where it came from.

“We’re still looking into the make and model to try and find out some more information about the distance they can fly,” Sgt. Goist said.

Allen says if a light weight drone gets caught by the wind it could have come from as much as a mile away from where it landed.

New Middletown police say the owner can contact the police department by calling 330-542-2846


How to insure your Christmas drone

By Jay MacDonald
Thursday, December 31, 2015


Chances are, you or someone you know will be proudly piloting a brand new aerial drone into the new year.

In what it calls a “defining year” for unmanned, remote-controlled flying machines, the Consumer Technology Association projects that U.S. sales of hobby drones will top 700,000 this holiday season, a 63% increase over 2014.

Unfortunately, some new drone owners may have unwrapped more risk than they bargained for when they popped the lid on their airborne plaything.

“Almost no one is thinking about insurance coverage when they’re opening the box,” Chicago attorney Jeff Antonelli, who specializes in federal regulations for unmanned aerial systems, tells Bloomberg.

The exception: home insurance companies, one of which received federal approval for conditional drone use for underwriting, surveys, inspections and post-catastrophe damage assessment.

Is your policy drone-friendly?

While home insurance policies may cover the damage of a wayward drone crashing into a neighbor’s child, pet, home or vehicle, some policies do exactly the opposite by specifically excluding coverage for aviation-related claims, be they human or drone related. The Federal Aviation Administration currently classifies drones large and small as aircraft.

There’s equal uncertainty over where newbie drone pilots would stand as far as invasion of privacy liability claims in the ‘hood, with or without onboard cameras.

Talk about a buzz kill, right?

As you might guess, where there’s a risk, there’s an insurer. For just $75 per year, the 185,000 adult members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics hobbyist group enjoy $2.5 million in personal liability coverage and $25,000 in medical under a group plan from Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance, part of the ACE Group.

But depending on your home insurance to cover all things drone-related could be risky.

Where the insurers stand

Allstate, for instance, will cover the damage your drone causes to a neighbor’s home or auto, but not the “first party” toll a drone might take on your own home or vehicle, spokesman Justin Herndon told Bloomberg.

State Farm, however, vows to cover drone damage or injuries just like any other insured mishap. “Damages from drones pose nothing new in this regard,” says spokesman Chris Pilcic.

Boston attorney Matthew Henshon, who specializes in emerging technologies, predicts that city and state regulators will likely intervene in what he calls the current “balancing act between insurance and regulation” as drone use grows.

“If bad things are happening, someone is going to figure it out and step in from a regulatory standpoint,” he tells Bloomberg. “If enough damage is being done, someone is going to call their congressman.”

Or perhaps deliver a written complaint by drone.