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New York City Laws on Flying Drones

New York City has some of the nicest urban scenery to be found anywhere on Earth. Drones equipped with cameras may seem perfectly suited to photograph these scenes. Generally speaking, drones are becoming increasingly popular, so if you are an enthusiast, it is important to educate yourself on the law, rules and regulations that come with flying drones in the 55,000 square mile area of New York. Unfortunately, flying any sort of (manned or unmanned) aircraft over the city is banned except in certain designated locations (see below for exceptions). Paolo Prosetti, a Swiss tourist, was arrested two weeks ago after he crashed his drone through a 21st floor window in Times Square and tried to retrieve the drone and pay for the damage.

Notably, federal law and regulations take precedence over state and local laws. This means that everyone in the USA must register his drone with the Federal Aviation Administration and follow the FAA’s Special Rule for Model Aircraft.

There are nine major cities in New York State and all of them have made it illegal to fly drones in them (except for commercial drone applications which might get individual permits or licenses). Luckily, New York City allows you to take your drone to the skies in designated parks and model airfields like:

  • Flushing Meadows Corona Park
  • Calvert Vaux Park
  • Marine Park
  • Forest Park
  • La Tourette Park

Yet, you must not forget that all of Manhattan is off-limits, which includes: water, waterways, land under the jurisdiction of the city and the air space above.

According to the New York Department of Transportation and the New York State Assembly, there are currently no state laws in place concerning the operations of drones in New York, which means that the general Federal regulations are the primary restrictions on what you can do. However, there are plenty of non-specific laws that still apply to drone use, such as reckless endangerment and trespass laws. Furthermore, a City of New York restriction (Administrative Code § 10-126) makes illegal the flying and landing of  aircraft (including drones) in New York City in most non-commercial circumstances.

While New York might have been a little slow off the mark with drone-specific legislation, there are quite a few proposed laws that might come into effect any day now. Thereby, one of them would describe what the liabilities are of drone owners, operators and makers respectively. Another one would allow to predict what sort of damages an injured party can claim from each of the three entities depending on circumstances. Finally, because of the development of weapons, New York wants to ban the weaponization of drones like Florida has already done. But even if this is not a law yet, we can only recommend you to not try to attach a pistol, knife or any sort of weapon to your drone. Because drones have also been used to bring weapons, drugs and other illegal stuffs intro prison yards, there will probably be a law prohibiting anyone from flying drones near correctional facilities.

You should also know that drones are not the only aircraft forbidden in and over the city: it is also unlawful for any person to jump or leap from an aircraft in a parachute or any other device within the limits of the city or to take off or land for anybody avigating an aircraft, except in emergency, at any place within the limits of the city other than places of landing designated by the department of transportation or the port of New York authority (NYC Administrative Code § 10-126).

[If you or a loved one was arrested for piloting a drone in the limits of the city, do not hesitate to reach out to Galluzzo & Arnone; our team of former prosecutors and experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you with your case.]