Naperville parks designating park field for drone flight

Naperville Park District has designated one of its parks as a site for drone enthusiasts to practice flight.

Officials have chosen the west side of Brush Hill Park at 203 N. Whispering Hills Drive as the best place for recreational drone pilots to work on their skills.

Kevin Finnegan, director of parks, said the district is creating a 300-by-175-foot field suitable for drone practice — but not for racing — in a section of parkland that doesn’t draw many visitors.

“It’s fairly isolated with commercial property north and south of it and Ogden Avenue along the west,” Finnegan said. “The park is rarely programmed for any athletics.”

So by Oct. 1, the district plans to create a drone practice field marked with corner posts to alert pilots to the boundaries for their flight. The field will include a concrete pad where pilots can launch their drones, as well as a bench, a sign specifying rules and a 50-foot buffer on all sides between the flight zone and neighboring properties, Finnegan said.

Mike Reilly, park board president, said pilots must be registered with the FAA to use the drone field. He and Finnegan said park district police will ensure field users follow all FAA regulations, such as not flying drones above people and keeping them in the pilot’s line of sight.

These measures, along with the site location, will help minimize concerns with invasion of privacy or safety of children that Reilly said tend to arise when drone technology is involved.

“We’re providing an area where people can go,” Reilly said. “It’s there for the pilots to be able to practice proficiency with their planes.”

As drone popularity increases, officials expect the field will provide an introductory place to get acquainted with flying technology.

“We hope that it will be an added benefit to people who use our parks,” Finnegan said.

Hobbyists then can progress to races through leagues such as Chicago Drone Racers or Go Drone X. Finnegan said it’s unlikely the park district will play host to any drone racing courses because of the amount of space required.

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