Can You Fly A Drone In NYC? Is It Legal To Do So?

can you fly a drone in nyc

Drone rules apply in all cities, counties, and states of the U.S., and New York City is no outlier. NYC is the most populated city in the country, and laws pertaining to drone usage quite understandably apply much more in the region than in any other place. So, does that mean you cannot fly a drone in NYC?

Yes, flying a drone is illegal in NYC. But there are quite a few locations around the region – such as the LaTourette Park and Flushing Meadows Park – that allow drone use. But do check with local drone clubs in the respective regions to learn more about the rules and guidelines for flying drones.

If you’re visiting New York from another city, state, or country and would like to know the chances or requirements for flying drones in the United States’ financial hub, keep reading.

drone flies on north new york airspace

Federal Drone Rules That Apply to NYC

Before learning the NYC-specific rules for flying drones, it’s imperative to find out what the FAA says about flying drones in the country.

The U.S. federal government, in association with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), has laid out rules for drone use in the country, which apply to NYC and the state of New York. Of which, the following are the most important and pertinent:

  • Flying a drone in the New York state as a commercial drone pilot would require adhering to the FAA’s Part 107 law, which entails clearing the Aeronautical Knowledge Test, also conducted by the FAA. You cannot commercially operate drones in NYC or the state or any other part of the country without a “remote pilot certificate”. Passing the test mentioned above is imperative to get the certification.
  • To fly drones in New York as a recreational activity, you must conform to the FAA’s recreational drone flying rules. The list consists of several guidelines to follow – including the drone should weigh 55 pounds (25kg) or less. If the drone is less than 0.55 pounds (250g), it need not be registered with the FAA.

Government employees, such as fire or police department officials, can fly a drone in the city if their job demands or while they are on duty. The operations fall under the purview of the Part 107 rule, and the official must procure a “certificate of authorization (COA)” for the same.

Drone Rules Specific to New York

The New York State Assembly has drone laws in place that apply to the whole state. The one specific law that warrants a mention, however, is OPR-PCD-018.

As per this state directive, launching, landing, and operating a drone in New York’s historic sites and state parks is permitted if prior written approval from the authorities has been sought. The permit authorizes the use of a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) during a particular period and ascertains the exact location and usage type. Launching or operating a drone in New York without the above permit is prohibited and prosecutable.

Besides those mentioned above, there are a few other local rules on drone usage in New York. Those laws may apply only to particular regions, counties, or cities in the New York state.

Illegal Drone Usage in NYC and the Legal Repercussions

New York City is known for its skyscrapers and some landmark structures, such as the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and One World Trade Center.

In the past, incidents involving a drone hitting the Empire State Building’s window, a drone coming in contact with an Army helicopter over Staten Island, and several other accidents of drones colliding, slamming, smashing, getting stuck, etc., into things have been reported.

Sometime in November 2017, a bulletin was issued warning the possible use of drones for terror activities. Though drone use incidents with malintent have not been reported in the city, you cannot completely rule out the likelihood.

Therefore, NYC and the state of New York have taken massive measures to curtail the unlawful use of drones in and around the region. The NYPD Aviation Unit takes to the skies regularly to track and crack-down illegally flying drones in New York airspace.

It’s not easy to see a drone in the sky when viewed from within a helicopter or any other crewed aircraft.

Punishments for Flying a Drone in NYC Illegally

The NYPD track illegal drones using unique technology installed in their helicopters. The tech helps them identify the drone operator’s exact location. Once determined, the information is passed on to the ground patrol, who take it forward from there.

If caught for illegal drone use in NYC, the concerned individual could be fined thousands of dollars and/or even charged for causing reckless endangerment. Usually, the tracked-down drone operators plead ignorance.

Areas Around NYC Where It is Legal to Fly Drones

Some parks in NYC permit the use of model aircraft, allowing drone users the chance to capture breath-taking visuals of New York’s surroundings. While drones are permitted in the following locations, you must still register your drone with the FAA.

While you’re at it, also make good use of the B4UFLY app to learn more about the non-fly zones in NYC, along with the rules and regulations drone operators should be aware of and adhere to before launching their UAVs into the sky.

drone flying in central park

The following are locations around New York City where it’s acceptable to fly drones – but, of course, after having got necessary permission.

Flushing Meadows – Corona Park

Flushing Meadows – Corona Park, located in the Queens borough, is the second-biggest state park in the state. If you’re a fan of tennis, the name “Flushing Meadows” would sound familiar. For the unaware, the U.S. Open tennis tournament is held in Flushing Meadows every year.

Besides the tennis complex, the park comprises quite a few soccer fields, basketball courts, a baseball field (Citi Field), and a model airplane field.

Flushing Meadows Park has space reserved for flying drones as well. The designated flying field of Flushing Meadows is wedged between Van Wyck Expressway and Meadow Lake, offering you tons of potential to capture breath-taking cinematic scenes.

However, the iconic Unisphere and the New York State Pavilion are pretty much out of bounds, thanks to the drone-flying limitations in place in those regions.

Aerial shots of sports venues and stadiums are quite in vogue on social media. If you’re looking to grab some incredible shots of your own, Flushing Meadows offers you the avenues. Flushing Meadows is not as popular a tourist sport as it can be. But for sports fans and drone enthusiasts, it’s the mecca.

LaTourette Park

LaTourette Park accounts for close to a third of the massive 2,800-acre green belt of Staten Island. The name comes from the park’s past owners, the LaTourette family, which sold the land in 1928 to New York City. Not to mention, the place has a rich history.

LaTourette is an ideal location if you like green or want your drone shots to be dominated by the visuals of sweeping green swaths of land. There is an airfield situated behind the course designated for drone take-offs. The golf club’s clubhouse is the LaTourette family’s mansion from the 1870s.

However, if you’re not as great a fan of well-mowed greenery and would instead prefer something natural and wild, Richmond Creek is where you should be heading to with your drone.

Calvert Vaux Park

The model airplane field in Calvert Vaux Park is an ideal site for amateur drone fliers due to the location’s wide-open yet secluded landscape settings.

Launch your drone with Calvert Vaux Park as your base and look forward to capturing some breath-taking shots of the neighboring Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and Coney Island Creek Park. And if lucky, you can catch a glimpse of a cruise ship going about its business as well.

To fly a drone over or around Calvert Vaux Park, Seaview Rotary Wings requires drone operators to be premium members of both its national and local clubs – like it’s the case with most of the other sites mentioned here.

Marine Park

Marine Park is situated on Brooklyn waters, too (like Calvert Vaux), offering the potential to snap some rich aerial shots. Its 530 acres of salt marsh and grassland almost guarantee breath-taking footage. Let your drone soar past over the wooded regions to catch glimpses of the Shell Bank Creek that flows between Plumb Island and Marine Park.

Kindly note, you should be a member of the Radio Control Society of Marine Park (local flying club) to fly your drone over the region. Like before visiting any of the other parks mentioned here with your UAV, make sure you’re aware of the local flying laws and the requisites to adhere to.

Forest Park

Forest Park in Queens is famous for its meandering, picturesque paths, and a magnificent green golf course. The park straddles Queens and Brooklyn, featuring a chain of trees and small hills. The green expanse covers approximately 165 acres of area. The park also comprises a segregated or relatively private model aircraft field at its western end.

Soar past the circular, narrow field to catch a glimpse of the Mt. Hope Cemetery. And if the weather is right, you’ll also get a slight peek of the skyline of Manhattan. And if you want to capture aerial shots as they appear in sports channels, explore the golf course’s eastern side.

cloudy view of central park

Horses are available for hire too from a private stable if you’re into the activity or know to ride horses. But make sure you do not operate your drone while riding a horse. It’s risky and perhaps illegal too.

Conclusion

When viewed from the ground, drones look like tiny, harmless specks in the sky. But as they approach people or things (usually too fast to react to), the menace they could pose can be frightening. And that’s quite evident by the multiple incidents drones have been embroiled in before, both in New York and other parts of the country.

People could get seriously injured or even die when hit by a rogue or impaired drone. In a populous city like New York, flying a drone is putting thousands of lives at stake. Then there’s the likelihood of damaging iconic structures too. This is why even drone experts are not allowed to use drones in NYC or any place in the state that’s human-inhabited.

As mentioned earlier, flying a drone in the city is not permitted. But specific circumstances or people could operate the drone with proper permit or approval. If you’re considering flying a drone in the city, make sure you meet those requirements and never violate the law.

By Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher loves to play with new toys and dive into new hobbies. As a serial entrepreneur, work definitely comes first but there is always room for hobbies.