Drone store opens in Warwick, with a protest


WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s first drone store opened Saturday in Warwick as a small group of protestors demonstrated outside.

Cloud City Drones officially opened Saturday on Jefferson Boulevard; the store sells small consumer drones designed to take pictures and video.

The store sits just a short distance away from T.F. Green Airport, although no drones are flown outside the business. A few test flights sometimes occur inside, though.

But the protest wasn’t opposed to the store opening, and in fact, the protestors and the store’s owner found themselves in agreement on some important issues.

Randall Rose with the Rhode Island Coalition to Defend Human and Civil Rights told Eyewitness News that drones infringe upon Rhode Islanders’ privacy and should be better-regulated by the government.

“Drones need ground rules,” he said. “There should be laws to protect our privacy, to protect our quality of life, to make sure drones are operated safely. And there is not a single law passed in Rhode Island about drones.”

Store owner Chris Williams agreed.

“It’s very gray,” he said of the legislative and regulatory landscape.

The Federal Aviation Administration has some regulations on drone use on the books already but a more thorough overhaul designed to integrate them into the national aviation system is still in progress. Meanwhile, rules and restrictions vary by state, usually in response to specific incidents like a drone crash at the U.S. Open, or a crash at a stadium in Kentucky last week.

Last month, officials in California reported that privately-operated drones are increasingly interfering with aerial firefighting during wildfires.

Legislators in Rhode Island passed a House bill which grants the state, and not cities or towns, the power to regulate “unpiloted aerial vehicles” but a more detailed House bill which addressed privacy concerns was not enacted.

A large part of the opposition to recreational drone use, Williams says, is rooted in the way in which they’re described.

“If I call it a quad-copter, which is what it is, it’s not very exciting,” Williams said. “But as soon as we say ‘drone’ it gets everybody’s blood raising because we think of the military drone, the spy drone. That’s not what this is at all.”

Rose and Williams spoke briefly inside the store about the need for more clear guidelines and regulation regarding drone use, a point on which they agreed. The two men shook hands and Williams said he’s always willing to talk about those gray areas and possible solutions.

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