ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — If you currently fly a drone or ever thought about piloting a drone, you may want to make sure you’re following all rules and regulations to avoid a fine. In New York, there are certain local, state, and federal rules for flying a drone.
A drone is a remote-controlled pilotless aircraft. Drones can be used by government organizations, or for commercial, educational or recreational purposes. Each type of drone user has a different set of regulations.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), recreational flyers must:
- Take the Recreational Unmanned Aircraft System Safety Test and carry proof that you passed
- Fly for strictly recreational purposes
- Keep your drone within your visual line of sight or use a visual observer physically next to and in direct communication with you
- Give way and do not interfere with manned aircrafts
- Fly at or below 400 feet in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace
- Fly at or below 400 feet in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) only with prior authorization
- Have a current registration, mark your drones with the registration number and carry proof of registration on you
- Don’t operate the drone in a dangerous manner, such as interfering with law enforcement activities or flying under the influence of drugs or alcohol
The FAA asks drone flyers to follow the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community Based Organization (CBO). However, the FAA has not started officially recognizing CBOs. These rules serve as the guidelines until CBOs are recognized.
For commercial flyers, many rules are the same under the FAA. However, users need to become FAA-certified drone pilots by taking a different knowledge test.
Those who violate any of these rules or operate in a dangerous manner may be subject to FAA enforcement action.
As for state laws, there’s only one law regarding drone use in New York. The Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) has a law that went into effect in 2015 for regulating unmanned aircraft systems. Recreational flyers need a special permit to launch, land, and operate on land and water administered by OPRHP.
Lawmakers in New York have attempted to pass laws regarding drones in the past. Assembly Bill A01670 to criminalize the unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft was introduced in 2017 but failed in committee. Assembly Bill A417 to impose limitations on the use of drones was introduced in 2021 but lost its sponsor in 2022.
There is one bill currently in committee, according to the New York State Senate website. Senate Bill S6435B would establish the “protect our privacy act” to impose limitations on the use of drones for law enforcement purposes.
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) also has rules about flying on DEC-managed lands. Drones are allowed in areas classified as state forests, multiple-use areas, and unique areas, but they are prohibited on Forest Preserves classified as wilderness, primitive, primitive bicycle corridors, and canoe areas.
Drones can be used for recreational purposes in wild forest areas and the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor. Commercial flyers need a special permit for these areas.
According to the DEC, drone use is prohibited at the DEC’s four education centers except for research or training. These include Five Rivers, Stony Kill Farm, Rogers, and Reinstein Woods. Drone use is also prohibited at DEC’s youth summer camps, which include Colby, DeBruce, Pack Forest, and Rushford, while children are present.
For all other DEC-managed lands, you may need to contact a certain DEC office to get permission to fly a drone there. You can find who you would need to contact on the DEC website.
In New York, only New York City and Syracuse have laws on drone use. In New York City, drones are illegal to fly. If you see an unmanned aerial vehicle, you are asked to call 911 to report it.
In Syracuse, a city ordinance bans the use of drones by city officials until federal and state laws are passed about the governmental use of drones. The ordinance said this is to protect residents’ First and Fourth Amendment rights until federal laws and state laws address the issue.
The website UAV Coach has resources for drone users and prospective flyers, including training resources and testing for both recreational and non-commercial drone use. You can visit the UAV Coach website to learn more.