Autonomous drones are here to stay in Lewisville.

Drone company Wing’s 12-month trial for its residential delivery service in partnership with the Walmart on Main Street is set to end this fall and could lead to a permanent contract.

With planning to set up operations in the city, officials recognized the noise, safety and privacy concerns from residents, prompting the council to consider potential ordinances to mitigate the issues. Additionally, current city policy would not allow permanent drone delivery facilities, Lewisville Planning Manager Michele Berry said at a June 17 workshop.

“Right now, the way our ordinances are set, all of these facilities would require alternative standards because none of them would meet the screening requirements,” Berry said.

Zooming in

City officials proposed regulating a perimeter that establishes a setback distance that drones must maintain around specific residential or other areas that might be heavily impacted by the noise, Berry said.

Officials also considered adding drone delivery facilities as an accessory use to its list of approved uses, as well as providing specific location and screening requirements for the delivery services, Berry said.

“There's some cases where the screening requirements we have don't make sense for drone delivery systems,” she said.

Details of proposed ordinances include:
  • Define drone and unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft staging areas
  • Allow as drone service as accessory for commercial and industrial use
  • Establish a 300-foot setback distance from residential areas, parks and hospitals
  • Staging areas on roofs are subject to city roof-mounted equipment standards
  • Staging areas on building facades cannot exceed building height or face a street, unless approved by Lewisville Planning and Zoning Commission
  • All equipment, except landing pads, must be screened and the drone facility must be reflected on site plan
The details

Not all concerns are within the local government's jurisdiction. Safety requirements, flight patterns and air operations are all dictated at the federal level while the state focuses primarily on privacy concerns like prohibiting drones from photographing residential neighborhoods, Berry said. City officials can regulate land use, screening, fencing, location of outside storage, and all building codes.

The ordinances the city is considering will be specific to commercial drone uses that requires land for staging areas and wouldn’t govern police and fire departments or recreational hobbyist drone use, Berry said.

The context

Wing also launched the program in Frisco. Another drone company, Zipline, plans to partner with the Walmart on Round Grove Road in Lewisville to offer a similar service, Berry said.

Wing currently operates its Lewisville staging area out of a small portion of the parking lot. Zipline plans to house its charging stations and staging areas on vertical mounts installed on the side of buildings, reducing the overall footprint, according to city documents.

Looking ahead

City officials will continue to draft ordinances while obtaining feedback from drone companies ahead of bringing a plan to the Planning and Zoning Committee and City Council adoption, Berry said.

In the future, Lewisville could see a multitude of businesses adopting the technology, requiring the city to build drone ports that operate with different businesses within a given radius, Mayor TJ Gilmore said. Officials need to be strategic and forward-thinking about where things are headed for the city as the service becomes more commonplace like delivery service DoorDash, Gilmore added.

“If we are talking about the drone folks already, let's start talking about where they are [going to be] in two years,” he said.