Hey indie filmmakers, Griffin here.
New York is a beautiful city, but for a drone pilot, it is nearly impossible to
fly over. That's why I am just north in Westchester County, where I am
legally allowed to fly.
Today we'll look at the drone rules that make New York more restrictive than most American
cities. But there are some exceptions—five New York City parks where you can fly.
I guess I'm a "real" drone pilot. I have my FAA Part 107
certification, which allows me to earn money from my flights, and I can fly in some
locations that hobbyists can't.
But wherever I go, the question "Can I fly here?"
is always complicated.
It's really four questions.
Am I following FAA rules?
Can I take off and land from this property?
Am I cleared for this airspace?
And are there any local laws stopping me?
Sadly, in most of New York City I would fail all four.
The FAA says you can't fly drones over people
unless those people are operating the drones,
and New York City is the most densely populated place in the United States. So good
luck finding a flight path that doesn't travel over a person.
So you might think go to a park with some open space. Problem is the New York City
parks have their own regulations prohibiting aircraft.
You are not allowed to take off or land on NYC park property.
Okay, so what if we take off from somewhere else and just fly over a park?
Now we need to check our airspace maps to make sure it's cool with the FAA.
AirMap is a great tool for looking at airspace restrictions.
These big blue circles represent the controlled airspace above LaGuardia and JFK Airports.
A lot of New York City is covered by this Class B airspace.
Makes sense because this is what happens when a drone hits an airplane wing.
So theoretically I could fly outside this ring in parts of Manhattan or Brooklyn
without asking the FAA.
Inside the blue I need FAA authorization, which I can request
because I'm a certified pilot.
These numbers represent low altitude ceilings. If I apply to fly under
200 feet right here the FAA will grant me near-instant approval through a
system called LAANC.
One place I definitely can't fly is midtown Manhattan. This is a
TFR, a temporary flight restriction over Trump Tower. He's president,
so his New York residence is a no-fly zone with a radius of one nautical mile.
So what if I find a sparsely populated spot in Lower Manhattan, where I
don't need FAA authorization,
and a friendly property owner lets me fly above their building with no pedestrians underneath?
Can I fly there?
No. According to NYC.gov, "Drones are illegal
to fly in New York City."
And if you see one, "call 911."
Well, that sucks.
It's not a clearly defined law passed by any legislative body. Just a
sentence the city wrote on its website in 2016.
And it's hard to know what penalty I could face for a normal, safe flight because
the people getting arrested are the ones crashing into buildings—
[ABC7 News] A tourist is is trouble after crashing a drone
through a window of a building near Times Square.
[Griffin] —usually for misdemeanors like reckless endangerment and property damage.
As a side note, in addition to facing city justice, the FAA usually
fines reckless drone crashers $2,200.
Clearly drones can be dangerous in a city this densely populated, but this
city administrative code – "Drones are illegal" – sounds overly
broad, vague and ripe for a legal challenge.
Under the perfect circumstances, I might feel it's my federally granted right to fly in
New York City. Let's say a business in Brooklyn hires me to fly over
their empty parking lot.
Yes, I would worry that a neighbor could call 911. But if the flight is safe
and within uncontrolled airspace, I would feel like I'm operating
within my legal rights.
And maybe that city administrative code is infringing on my liberties.
But that is why I am up in Yonkers, just outside the New York City limits to avoid this hassle
Between the population, the park restrictions, the two major airports
and the blanket city ban on drones, it's just easier to do my flying outside the city.
That being said, there are five exceptions in New York City: five parks in Brooklyn,
Queens and Staten Island that have designated model aircraft fields.
The two in Brooklyn require a paid membership to fly. But if you have to fly in
NYC, these are the only spots the city says you can.
Thanks for watching. I have a few links in the
description, including the park website that shows where you can fly, and check out the
premiere of my new show on Indy Mogul, "Cheap Thing vs. Expensive Thing."
In the first episode, I'm testing a
$1500 Mavic Pro versus its