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Drones can be flown in Medford, with restrictions

I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 18 years. Yesterday, for the first time, I saw a drone buzzing the neighborhood. To my knowledge, there are no public drones being used in Medford, right? So I guess it was a private individual?

— Bill, Medford

Drones — unmanned aerial vehicles controlled remotely from the ground — have become popular in recent years and are used for everything from hobbyist photography to aiding law enforcement efforts.

Sgt. Julie Denney of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said drones have been used as part of search and rescue operations for years. They can also be used by police to record a property before a search warrant is executed.

“We’re still in the early stages of figuring out the applications for drones,” Denney said.

Citizens who own drones can receive FAA licensing to fly in public areas or over private property with permission. Regulations restrict certain behaviors, such as flying at night or higher than 400 feet. Flying over secure areas such as prisons or power stations will also get you grounded, according to Larry Cogdell, public relations officer for the Rogue Valley Eagles RC club and an FAA-certified commercial drone pilot.

While some fear drones could be used to spy on neighbors through windows, it is extremely rare for a drone pilot to attempt to invade another person’s privacy, Cogdell said. Despite advances in the technology, most drone cameras would have to be very close to take such a picture, and the noise of the rotors would clue you in.

“The etiquette is don’t harass people,” Cogdell said. “You are not to fly over people.”

Drones must be registered, and hobbyists who join RC clubs such as the Rogue Valley Eagles are well versed in the activity’s rules and norms, Cogdell said.

“Somebody that’s flying something that costs more than $1,000 is substantially interested in professional behavior,” Cogdell said.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.