New York is a beautiful, lively city full of photographic opportunities. However, it can be a nightmare for drone pilots. In this video, documentary filmmaker Griffin Hammond explains why it’s nearly impossible and mostly illegal to fly a drone in New York City.
Griffin has obtained FAA’s Part 107 certification which makes him a professional drone pilot. This allows him to fly in some locations where hobbyists aren’t allowed. However, even for him, the answer to the question “Can I fly here?” is still complicated. As he explains, when you want to fly a drone, this question is actually a set of four questions:
- Are you following FAA Part 107 rules?
- Can you take off and land from this property?
- Are you cleared for this airspace?
- Are there any local laws prohibiting you from flying?
Unfortunately, in most of NYC, you’d fail all four of the above.
First, FAA Part 107 says that you can’t fly over people unless those people are operating the drone. New York City is the most densely populated place in the U.S., so you’ll have a hard time finding a path that doesn’t fly over at least one person.
Sure, you can always go to a park, find some open space, right? Well, not exactly. NYC parks have their own regulations which prohibit aircraft. You’re not allowed to take off or land on NYC park property. But what about if you take off or land somewhere else and just fly over a park? In theory, you might – but this is where you need to check the airspace maps, which brings you to another problem.
Most of NYC is controlled Class B airspace because of the airports. To fly within these areas, you need an FAA authorization. You can request it, though, if you are a certified pilot. But, you can’t fly in Mid-town Manhattan due to temporary flight restriction over Trump Tower.
Okay, but what if you find an open space without people, in an area that doesn’t require an FAA authorization, and a property owner who lets you fly above their property. Can you fly there? Apparently, no. According to NYC.gov, drones are illegal to fly in New York City and if you see one, you should call 911. However, it’s not clear what the fines are if you fly a drone safely and within regulations. So far, those who got in trouble for flying a drone were those who crashed it and caused damage or endangered others. And this fine is $2,200, Griffin notes.
All this kinda sucks, doesn’t it? Still, there some exceptions: five places where you can fly your drone in New York City. They are five parks that have designated model aircraft fields:
- Calvert Vaux Park in Brooklyn
- Marine Park in Brooklyn
- Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens
- Forest Park in Queens
- La Tourette Park (Greenbelt) on Staten Island
The two in Brooklyn require a paid membership, but hey, I guess it’s worth it if you want to avoid any potential legal trouble.