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Can You Fly a Drone in Manhattan?

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Manhattan is by far New York City’s best-known borough. Its reputation as the heart of the city and its cultural, financial, and commercial centers ensure that.

Whether you live in New York or you’re only passing through, can you fly a drone in Manhattan?

You cannot use a drone in Manhattan without prior permission. The city is the most densely populated in New York, so flying your drone would pose a great risk to people and buildings. NYC police encourages people using a drone in the city to call them and report it.

In today’s article, we’ll talk further about using drones in and around Manhattan. There’s great information to come, so make sure you check it out!

Can you fly a drone in Manhattan? #

Manhattan is the heart and soul of the Big Apple, New York City itself. The 22.82-square-mile island attracts millions of visitors within the United States, not to mention all the millions of international visitors.

According to the Official Website of the City of New York[1], you cannot use a drone in New York City, and that goes for Manhattan too.

Let’s take a closer look at why that is.

Proximity to airports #

As a major commerce hub in the US, New York has two airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. Smaller skyports dot the landscape as well.

Most of the city is Class D airspace, but the areas around airports in Manhattan are Class B airspace.

In either scenario, you’re still required to obtain permission before using a drone for the safety of manned aircraft in the area.

Very densely populated #

Did you know Manhattan has the biggest population of New York’s five boroughs? According to United States Census Bureau data, up to 1.629 million people call the city home as of 2020.

The city is densely populated since it’s small. You also have to consider that besides the residents themselves, all the tourists that flock to the city will add to the crowds.

It doesn’t matter the time of day or night; you will always see people on the streets of Manhattan.

Some are going to or coming from work, others are tourists experiencing the sights, and others still are on a leisurely stroll.

Manhattan has just about everything you could want, from restaurants to bars, clothing stores, concert and sports venues, and everything in between.

Many people who live here don’t drive because taxis still litter the streets.

We’re telling you all this because if you were hoping to plan a drone flight in the middle of the night or maybe at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, you won’t have any luck.

Manhattan streets are never desolate.

Buildings as far as the eye can see #

Manhattan goes by another name, the Concrete Jungle. It’s all buildings, sidewalks, and cityscapes, for the most part.

Of course, you can escape to greener spaces or waterfront areas that feel a little more open, but the sheer multitude of buildings in the city and their proximity makes it dangerous for drone pilots to launch a UAV in Manhattan.  

What’s the punishment if you fly a drone in Manhattan? #

Since it’s a crime to use your drone in Manhattan without permission, New York City police encourage residents who see the behavior to do something about it.

The police, for as much work as they do, can’t be everywhere and see every drone crime, so they rely on citizens to help.

Citizens should call 911 if they see a drone in Manhattan’s building-lined skies. The police will dispatch to the area to deal with the drone pilot.

While you could get a warning for flying a drone in Manhattan, you do risk further punishment. You might receive a fine and have to appear in court.

» MORE: Drone Laws in New York

Can you fly a drone around Manhattan? #

You’re disappointed to learn you can’t fly your drone in Manhattan, but it’s not all bad.

The following areas that permit drone use will still let you capture the majestic cityscape of NYC without being in the Big Apple.

New Rochelle #

If you venture north from Manhattan, you’ll soon find yourself in New Rochelle, a Westchester County city that’s about 40 minutes away.

New Rochelle has greenspaces accessible to drones, plenty of cityscapes like NYC, and waterfronts. The varied territory will make exploring here with your drone for an afternoon a worthwhile experience.

Newark #

New Jersey and New York are quite close in distance. When you’re in North Jersey, it’s only a quick train ride into the city, so you might as well spend some time in Newark.

Depending on the weather, you can possibly see over state lines to Manhattan’s skyline from Newark!

Newark is home to Newark International Airport, so steer clear of that area when operating your drone. You also can’t use a drone in Liberty State Park.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Liberty State Park?

Hoboken #

A little deeper into New Jersey, Hoboken makes for an excellent place to use your drone without getting too close to Manhattan.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Hoboken, NJ?

You’ll only need a clear day and a good vantage point and voila, you can see the city without being in the city.

Just keep in mind that since you’re using your drone in New Jersey instead of New York that different set of laws applies. Make sure you brush up on NJ drone rules before you head out for the day.

Staten Island #

While you can’t fly freely across the entirety of Staten Island, you can always visit the Staten Island Boat Graveyard if you want some desolate footage that’s sure to send chills down the spine of whoever sees it.

Alternatively, many drone pilots adore the LaTourette Park Model Airfield, as it’s a popular spot for pilots and other aeronautic enthusiasts to gather!

New York drone laws to know #

You found a great place around Manhattan to use your drone, and you’re very excited about the day ahead.

Before you venture out, make sure you read up on these rules!

» MORE: Flying a Drone in New York City (Read This First)

You need a valid drone license #

New York State abides by the federal drone laws instated by the FAA. Those laws require drone pilots to have a valid license when taking to the skies.

That means you need a TRUST certificate if you’re a hobbyist. You’ll have to sign up through the FAA to take the test, ideally before you leave for NYC.

You can take the TRUST exam anywhere you have a reliable Internet connection. You’ll answer fewer than 30 multiple-choice questions and can correct any wrong answers.

Your TRUST certificate never expires, but if you lose it, you’ll have to take the test again.

If you’re a commercial pilot looking to work in Manhattan, you’ll need a current Remote Pilot Certificate. You’ll have to take the Part 107 exam, also issued through the FAA.

This longer, more difficult exam features about 50 multiple-choice questions.

You’ll take the exam offline and can’t see whether you answered correctly or incorrectly until you get your grade back.

You need a score of 70 percent to pass.

Your Part 107 license expires within two years, so make sure you recertify before planning a voyage to New York City.

Register drones over the weight threshold #

The FAA requires you to register drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds. You should have your registration on you when you visit Manhattan to prove you can legally fly the drone.

No drones in state parks without a permit #

The OPR-PCD-018–New York Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation state law prohibits drone pilots from filming or photographing any historical site or state park without a permit.

Even if you apply for a permit, you might not necessarily get one.

If the organization believes your drone will disturb wildlife, violate someone’s privacy rights, upset the general public, destroy park resources, or need to access restricted airspace, you’ll get turned down.

Only fly during daylight hours #

Unless you have permission or a drone equipped with the requisite lighting, you can only use a drone in New York from sunrise until sundown.

And yes, since Manhattan never sleeps, people will always be around to report a drone use infraction after dark!

Stay within 400 feet #

Witnessing the peaks of many of New York’s budlings isn’t possible with your drone, as you can’t fly it higher than 400 feet.

Conclusion #

Manhattan attracts the largest crowds in all New York City. For their safety and the preservation of the city, you can’t use a drone in Manhattan.

The city is also very close to airports.

You can fly in other areas outside of NYC and still see the city skyline, so don’t despair if your original flight plans don’t work out.

If you’re still in New York State and flying your drone, make sure to follow their rules.

Should you leave state lines and fly in New Jersey, that state’s rules apply!

References:1. NYC311 (link)


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