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Great Smoky Mountains and drones

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by SangYuP, Jun 23, 2016.

  1. SangYuP

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    I've read that flying your drone in national parks is illegal but I'll be going there this weekend and was wondering if there were any areas where it was legal to fly. Or is basically everywhere that I can get to by car off limits? I would love to fly it there and get some footage but don't want to break any laws. Anyone have any experience? Thanks in advance.
     
  2. BigAl07

    BigAl07 Moderator
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    I live in the heart of the GSM and we have a LOT of places to fly with amazing views but . . the Blue Ridge Parkway is a No Fly Zone and it's heavily enforced. Sometimes you're better off just using your camera and leaving the UAS in the trunk.
     
  3. Gary M

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    If you can find a piece of private or public land to launch from and what you want to shoot is within range of your Phantom, You can fly over the park all you want. You're just not allowed to LAUNCH from within park boundaries.
     
  4. RussOnTheRoad

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    I remember reading an opinion such as that above saying it is OK to fly over National Parks if you don't launch from within them but I believe I also recall reading the regulations which contradicted that view. On the face of it, it just seems silly to me that it would be OK to fly over a NP as long as you didn't launch from within. I don't pretend to know what the law is, but here is a quote from an article in the LA times from Jan. 2016 "If you're headed for a national park, for instance, the answer is simple: Drones are banned until the National Park Service comes up with a long-term policy. That ban covers not only the 59 full-fledged national parks but about 350 national monuments, seashores and other sites run by the NPS, about 84 million acres in all.

    The provisional ban dates to 2014 when, citing safety and noise issues, NPS Director Jon Jarvis issued a no-drones policy. The temporary ban carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and six months in jail." The latest buzz on flying drones in state and national parks: Rules can still be vague

    I bet if you call any NP they will say you cant fly regardless from where you launch. It doesn't make it law just because somebody says so because thats what their boss told them to say, but do you want to have to hassle fighting a ticket?

    Personally, on one hand I would love to fly over some of the NPs. On the other hand I realize it would in cases disturb wildlife and park visitors plus there would always be the risk of losing my drone, thereby littering and contaminating the countryside.


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  5. BigAl07

    BigAl07 Moderator
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    I can 100% assure you that IF they could say you can NOT fly over a NP they would but the FAA and only the FAA can control airspace so these other entities create the best restrictions they can without actually trying to regulate National Airspace.

    I don't think you should be allowed to fly over National Parks. Many people go there to experience the sights and sounds of nature and even at a couple of hundred feet up you still hear the "Droning" sounds of the props beating the air. Just my 2 cents.
     
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  6. Gary M

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    I am a lifelong, avid outdoors man, so unfortunately I am very much on the fence on this issue. Believe me, I am THAT guy who gets out deep into the woods for seclusion and peace & quiet. So I totally get not wanting a drone buzzing around while I'm trying to chill and be a part of nature. Yet, I am a drone pilot, so because of all the places I have been and beauty I've seen, I am constantly going "MAN! I could fly the drone here, and here, and here and get some GORGEOUS shots." Now, me personally, I would not be too bothered by a drone buzzing by, as long as it was at a high flight path and not buzzing around in my space/view. I look at it like this. I live by Skyline Drive, which of course is a National Park, so it's a no-no. But, the Drive is always packed with miles long lines of cars with tourists. If you're going to Skyline Drive for the views, it is a must see. But If you're going for quiet and seclusion, that's not it. What would an occasional drone buzzing by hurt at that point? And albeit it's a short experience, but based on what I have seen while flying so far, hardly no one even hears me buzzing by anyway. And I am not one to go buzzing animals for something to do, but I have been relatively close to horses and cows at decent altitudes, and they didn't even acknowledge my existence. If you're not out there doing close fly-by's on wildlife, I really don't think they would be too effected.

    What bothers me more than the "Out In The Woods" places that we can't fly, is all of the historical type places that are national parks and are also no fly zones. I'm one of those who believes that if we were supervised and well coordinated with authorities we should be allowed to fly our national monuments in DC. They're ours, dammit. But do keep THIS in mind. There are some great wilderness areas with amazaing views, and frankly, a LITTLE more secluded. National FORESTS. Remember, national parks and national forests are two separate things. No, you can't fly from national parks, but that rule was not applied to national forests by the FAA. Take-off, fly over, film, land, everything is legal there. Places like George Washington National Forests, etc.
     
  7. Zuzua

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    Gary m, is absolutely correct, you can not take off or land in a N.P.. However, you can fly over it. This is not an opinion, it is the law
     
  8. BigAl07

    BigAl07 Moderator
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    Here's my question for everyone in regards to National Parks (NPS).... if the FAA states a suggested MIN flight altitude over NPS of 2000'AGL how do you meet that with your UAS? Granted it's not a codified regulation (yet) I see a time when that could change if we keep trying to find the loopholes.
     
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  9. Gary M

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    I think in outdoor or wilderness type settings I could still get some cool shots. But with Natl park including monuments, memorials, etc, those kind of shots would be ruined from that height.
     
  10. Zuzua

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    "Suggestion" is not "law"
     
  11. BigAl07

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    Well that adds a lot to the conversation since I clearly put "suggested" in my post. But thanks for the input.
     
  12. Zuzua

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    It added this fact to the conversation:
    Since it is a"suggestion" and not a"law", I would drop the height to a desirable height to be able to shoot the required subject.
     
  13. RussOnTheRoad

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    As I wrote above, I am not a lawyer, so it is in no way to argue that you or Gary M are incorrect, but I wonder is it legislation upon which you base this statement, a court ruling? What authority has declared it to be true that flying over NPs is lawful as long as you do not launch from within the park? I'd like to see it. Thanks.
     
    #13 RussOnTheRoad, Jun 25, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
  14. Zuzua

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    The national park laws


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  15. RussOnTheRoad

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    What National Park "laws" are you referring to? (I don't think the National Parks can make laws. That's a function of the legislature, but they can make regulations. Someone please correct me if I'm mistaken.) All I was able to find is this: "Policy Memorandum 14-05 (“Unmanned Aircraft – Interim Policy”) requires all superintendents to insert closure language in the park compendium prohibiting launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service (NPS), subject to the exceptions and conditions described in the Policy Memorandum." Note that "operating... on lands" is included in addition to "launching" and "landing". Elsewhere in the Memorandum this language is used"...to use the authority under 36 CFR 1.5 to close units of the National Park System to launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft...". We could argue that if we aren't ourselves on park land then we are not operating on park land even if we're flying over it. I would be very surprised if that was the intent of the regulation or that a court would it interpret it that way. It isn't worded all that precisely, IMHO.

    The sentence I quoted comes from here:
    To:
    www.nps.gov/policy/PolMemos/PM_14-05.htm
    I understand this to have been a temporary Policy Memorandum from June, 2014. I don't know that it has been updated.

    If you have some specific information you can quote, some actual rule or regulation you can reference that supports the notion it's OK to fly over National Parks as long as you launch from outside their borders, I'd very much like to know about it because there are probably some parks I'd love to fly over. Is it possible you're just passing along something you read or heard that wasn't official?

    P.S. I've written to the NPS seeking clarification. I know... "good luck with that", right? LOL.
     
    #15 RussOnTheRoad, Jun 27, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2016
  16. Gary M

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    I'm sorry, I think you're missing something here. In your comment you quoted....."closure language in the park compendium prohibiting launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service (NPS)." Notice it says absolutely nothing about the AIRSPACE over it. Not mentioned. At least not in this particular regulation. I, too, am not a lawyer (But I did play one on tv...bwaa-ha-ha...) so maybe other regs may mention it, I don't know. I think the key thing that you and many others get confused on, is the fact that the FAA and the FAA alone has control over the NAS. Cities and other localities banning drones are dancing on a fine line legally. But, YES, the town of BFE USA can say that you may not launch/land at their town park. They would, however, be overstepping their bounds to say you cannot fly over anything within their town limits. Personally, this is just another BS red tape regulations by typical useless bureaucrats. MOST of what they have been dictating in regards to UAS has been stepping all over the edge of constitutionality, and many cases sprinting over it. As things are written, it is confusing, and that is for a reason. To get us in trouble so they can make some $$ from fines. I would feel comfortable launching/landing from non NPS property and do a flyover. I highly doubt they's get someone for that. They didn't go after or fine ONE SINGLE PERSON flying commercial illegally instead of going through bs red tape and regs/33 Exemption. Not one. Why? Because they know that those regs (Pilot license, observer, etc. ) don't have a snowball's chance in hell of surviving in a court. I'm not stupid. I won't take/off land on NPS lands. Nuh-uhh. Thats asking to get caught breaking OBVIOUS regs. and you're right there where they can catch you. But if someone WERE to fly over, first, they'd have to figure where it came from, by who, etc. And we all know what the chances of that are.
     
  17. RussOnTheRoad

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    Good point about the FAA and airspace rules!

    Meanwhile, I wrote to the NPS and received a reply... in less than an hour! I was amazed. I'll include the reply below, but first, my interpretaion of it, so far, is that what you say is true insofar as the law is concerned. I'm not as cynical about the reasons for the regulations, however. I just think they don't want the kind of disturbances within the parks that dones may cause, especially in the hands of less thoughtful operators. The NPS representative pointed to other potential problems sUAS pilots may enconter separate from the issue of using airspace over the park. Here is the email I received:
    "The policy is quite clear as is our intention for the launching, operation and landing of UAS's within the lands and waters of the national park system.

    While you have identified a technical point - because the FAA, not the NPS, controls air space in the United States - there are other rules and laws in place that likely would affect UAS operations even if an operator were outside a park boundary. This would include, but not be limited to complaints of a UAS disturbing or harassing wildlife, causing a nuisance to or endangering park visitors or employees.

    NPS regulations are issued under the authority of The Organic Act of 1916, the Federal legislation signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, and other authorities."

    I have written back to the individual who wrote the NPS reply I quoted above, and I wrote, in part: "...my interpretation of what you've written is that if there are no complaints or incidents of wildlife or people being disturbed or endangered and if a sUAS pilot is outside of National Park borders while flying a sUAS within National Park borders, then there is no actionable infraction upon which park personnel may act to curtail or interfere with such flights. If you have information with which my interpretation may be controverted please let me know..." I'll report back with info about any reply I recieve.
     
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  18. kennedye

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  19. RussOnTheRoad

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  20. Sideshow07

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    I'm staying at a chalet in between pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg that is within the park. Amy I able to take off and fully straight above the property since it's private property?