Miami-Dade County wants to get into the drone business.
County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to designate the Tamiami airport a “Drone and Robotic Hub” in order to attract businesses and non-profits focused on the unmanned aircraft.
The drone vote mostly amounts to a branding effort, said sponsor Juan C. Zapata, who represents the western district that includes the Miami Executive Airport (previously known as the Kendall-Tamiami Airport). Zapata’s resolution establishes a “West End Innovation District” in the western part of Miami-Dade.
Zapata said Miami-Dade College already is launching a drone training program out of its aviation school at the county-owned airport (though the drones themselves have to launch miles away from the runways). His legislation lays out the district as bounded by Southwest 112th Street to the north, Southwest 137th Avenue to the east, the CSX railroad tracks to the south and Southwest 157th Avenue to the west — an area that falls between the neighborhoods of the Hammocks and Country Walk.
The legislation directs the county’s tax-funded Beacon Council, an economic-development agency, to promote the district as an “innovation hub.”
“This designation has no cost,” Zapata said. “More than anything, it’s a marketing effort.”
Zapata said the area is close enough to the Everglades to provide plenty of uninhabited areas for low-flying aircraft. His proposal came up just days after a drone crashed into a Hialeah home, arriving through a bedroom window. Commissioner Rebeca Sosa pointed to the mishap as a cautionary tale.
“They break your windows, they turn your alarm on, your children get afraid,” Sosa said of drones buzzing residential areas. “I’m just bringing that up.”