County commissioners say ‘no’ to drones

WARREN — Citing privacy concerns, Trumbull County commissioners are not entertaining the idea of using drones to look for work being done on homes before a permit was granted by the county’s building inspection department.

Commissioners Mauro Cantalamessa and Dan Polivka said Tuesday Trumbull County residents are not comfortable with a camera flying over their neighborhoods and homes, recording video and saving the images to check for signs of work being done without a permit — and neither are they.

Commissioner Frank Fuda said the program could have helped catch more violators, and he thinks the county should give the program a trial run before dismissing it.

Fuda hosted local drone enthusiast, photographer and business owner Bob Jadloski last week to talk about initiating a drone program to catch violators. Fuda said the county’s current method, started last year, isn’t very efficient because it relies on tips and an enforcer driving around looking for violations using up gas and not catching everything.

“I wouldn’t want it in my backyard,” Polivka said. “People are uncomfortable with it.”

Polivka said someone might have a pool or a hot tub and a drone could capture all sorts of images most members of the public wouldn’t want a government employee seeing.

Polivka said the drones work fine for law enforcement officers in a limited scope and in certain cases.

Michael Sliwinski, chief building inspector, said the residents of Trumbull County aren’t criminals and shouldn’t be monitored as such.

“It is an extreme approach. We aren’t talking about rapists and murderers; the people aren’t criminals. We don’t need to go to the extreme in the name of public safety,” he said.

Jadloski had offered to give the county a couple of free trial runs to see if using the drone worked well, and then offered to put a county employee through his $1,000 drone-use training course. A suitable drone could be obtained for $1,500 or less, Jadloski said, and the test to become certified with the Federal Aviation Administration costs $150.

Jadloski, CEO of Aerial Solutions Experts, addressed privacy concerns during the presentation.

The drones are required to fly between 83 feet and 400 feet, where the space above private property becomes the jurisdiction of the FAA, Jadloski said. And the drones can’t see into windows at that height in the daylight, he said.

“Invasion of privacy is not a concern. At that height, with what your operator would be out there doing, there shouldn’t be any concern,” Jadloski said.

Sliwinski said he has been running the idea past people who come into his office daily and no one supports it.

“When it comes to privacy, we have to proceed cautiously. I wouldn’t want it my backyard; people feel violated,” Sliwinski said. “I don’t want to field phone calls asking, ‘Why is a drone looking in my daughter’s room?’ Even if we weren’t, it would be perceived that way.”

Cantalamessa said he thinks there are good intentions behind the idea, but it isn’t something the county wants to start.

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