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Can You Fly a Drone Over Niagara Falls?

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Ah, Niagara Falls. It’s a place that needs no introduction, as it’s known for its beloved falls that cross right over the border of Canada. You’ve always dreamed of flying your drone over Niagara Falls, as it’d be a real bucket list moment for you.

Can you fly a drone over Niagara Falls?

Niagara Falls is a designated no-fly zone if flying under 3,500 feet. You cannot get your drone into the state park without a permit. Trying to fly without a permit could be punishable with fines or even the confiscation of your drone.

This article will take a deeper look into when drones are and are not permitted around Niagara Falls so you can get the permit you need to fly here (if you’re a commercial pilot, that is).

Make sure you check it out!

Can I fly a drone at Niagara Falls? #

So you want to fly your drone in Niagara Falls, huh? There’s a long list of pilots who wish for the same, but if you’re a recreational pilot of any kind, then you can’t.

According to the Niagara Falls State Park website, the rule on drone flight is as follows:

“In Niagara Falls State Park (per FAA rule 14 CFR 93 Sub E), there is a flight restriction in the vicinity of Niagara Falls State Park that amounts to a No Fly Zone. All flights below 3,500 feet are restricted, Therefore, UAS are prohibited in Niagara Falls State Park.”
Niagara Falls State Park

Then the website proclaims that “drones are not permitted on Niagara Falls property unless authorized with a permit. Further, under Transport Canada Federal Regulations, the airspace between Niagara Falls on the Canadian side of the Niagara River is designated a restricted area…

This restriction includes the operation of UAVs (drones) without permit approval from Transport Canada.”

According to Niagara Parks, the restricted area encompasses the entirety of the Niagara River, including northward of Niagara Falls to Whirlpool Road and southward of Welland River.

The restrictions expand 3,000 feet or 914 metres above ground level and 3,500 feet or 1,066 metres above sea level.

What kind of permit do you need for flying a drone in Niagara Falls? #

As the last section makes clear, recreational drone flight is not allowed in, over, or around Niagara Falls. You need a commercial permit to fly, but what kind?

Here’s more information about the permit you should have on your person when flying a drone commercially.

Film and Photography Permit #

Okay, here’s where matters get a little confusing. Niagara Falls State Park does not issue film and photography permits to commercial pilots because drones are prohibited.

However, Niagara Parks does allow drone pilots to apply for a permit, which you can print and download here.

The permit requires you to share basic information such as your name, company, address, and phone number.

You also have to divulge information on your project, such as the project name and client, the type of project, the desired scenes and imagery to be added, the number of days you’ll have to spend on site, and your shooting schedule.

If you need electricity or road closures, you need to mention that. You also have to detail all the information about your cast and crew, as appropriate, and whether your project will involve children, animals, aircraft, special effects, and stunts.

You must have $282.50 handy for a permit fee as well as a copy of your liability insurance.

What happens if you fly a drone around Niagara Falls without a permit? #

Let’s say that you don’t have a commercial permit and you still launch or land your drone around Niagara Falls anyway. What is the consequence of that?

Well, Niagara Falls borders both the United States and Canada. By breaking the rules, you could violate the guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration in the US and Transport Canada in Canada. That’s double the trouble you could face.

At the very, very least, a park ranger at Niagara Falls will tell you that you can’t be there with your drone and ask you to leave.

That’s the absolute best-case scenario.

The worst-case scenario is that the ranger could decide to take your drone and remote control from you as well as any other equipment you’re using to fly the UAV.

Whether you get that back is anyone’s guess, so you could be out hundreds to thousands of dollars for flying your drone illegally.

That’s not all. You could also face legal action. After all, in Niagara Falls, violating a drone ban is a misdemeanor charge.

You could be fined and jailed for up to six months. You’ll also have to stand trial in front of a judge.

The rules about flying a drone around Niagara Falls are clear, despite that it’s confusing that there’s a Niagara Falls State Park and Niagara Falls Parks.

If you violate those rules, especially knowingly, the consequences will be dire. It’s best not to even risk it.

Rules for flying a drone in and around Niagara Falls #

Permitted pilots who fly over Niagara Falls don’t get completely free rein. Before you plan your drone flight route, stay abreast of these rules.

Get a Canadian drone license #

Do you know which side of Niagara Falls is in New York versus Canada?

If not, then it’s not a bad idea to obtain a Canadian drone license in addition to your FAA Part 107 license.

According to the Canadian government’s website, to earn a drone license in Canada, you need to register for an online exam.

The exam will qualify you to fly a drone in Canada. To take the Small Basic Exam for lightweight drones of 250 grams, you must be 14 or older. You have to be over 16 to take the Small Advanced Exam.

Both tests cost $10 to take. The exams are online and multiple-choice.

The Small Basic Exam includes 35 questions and you’re granted 90 minutes to complete the test. You must score 65 percent or higher to pass.

The Small Advanced Exam is 50 multiple-choice questions and you’re given only an hour to take the test. You need to score 80 percent or higher to pass.

Even after passing your exam, you still need a pass a flight review to obtain a drone license in Canada. The review takes place at a drone flight school.

Stay away from military and/or government facilities #

Niagara Falls includes a lot of clear, gorgeous nature, but if your drone flight happens to take you near any military and/or government facilities, make sure you steer clear of them.

You should certainly never use your drone camera around these facilities.

Fly during daylight hours only #

When operating your drone in Niagara Falls, only do so after sunrise and before sunset. You are not allowed to fly your drone after dark.

Avoid drone use in inclement weather #

Niagara Falls can be misty enough due to those gargantuan falls. Don’t make your drone flight even more difficult for yourself by trying to brave strong winds or a light drizzle.

You could damage your drone just by setting out, and the risk of crashing your UAV is higher as well.

There’s not much for your drone to land on around Niagara Falls except for rocks and water, neither of which is good for it!

Keep a good distance from heliports and airports #

If you see a heliport during your drone flight, stay a distance of at least 1.86 miles or three kilometers from it.

You should give airports an even wider berth, flying at least five miles or eight kilometers away.

Stay within 400 meters #

You’re limited on drone height around Niagara Falls as you are when flying in most places, with a max height of 400 feet or 122 meters allowable.

Don’t fly near people #

Millions of people visit Niagara Falls each year. Don’t interrupt or detract from their experience by getting your drone too close to them.

Conclusion #

Niagara Falls is a tricky place to plan a drone flight since it straddles the border between the US and Canada.

Recreational drone pilots are always prohibited from flying in, around, and over Niagara Falls whereas commercial pilots can fly with the proper permits.

It’s not a bad idea to have a Canadian drone pilot license to be extra safe, as the punishments for violating drone flight rules in Niagara Falls include steep fines, possible drone confiscation, and jailtime if you’re convicted of a misdemeanor. 

References:Niagara Falls State Park (link)Niagara Parks (link)Government of Canada (link)Government of Canada (link)


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