The drones are coming, the drones are coming! No, they are already here. First developed for military use, they are now available for anyone to buy and are used by anyone who wants that unique view of an area. There are many drone videos on the internet on You Tube that give you a perspective never seen before. They can go places a helicopter can’t go, such as tight places between buildings, and are lightweight and portable. As drone use has become more popular, problems have arisen and their use has been curtailed in many places. They are not allowed to be flown near airports because they can interfere with planes and a person can be jailed and fined for doing so. Many drone operators and others are not aware there are restrictions as to where they can be flown.
July 4th weekend, I was at Rockaway Beach and a drone kept flying back and forth about 10 feet over the crowds. I thought it was a police drone keeping an eye on things but I asked the lifeguard supervisor and he said it was just some guy who does it all the time and said it was legal unless he went over 1,000 feet and it would interfere with planes around JFK airport.
The next day, I was in Elmhurst Park and a guy had a large remote-controlled helicopter with 4-foot blades. I never saw it take off, but the blades were swirling around at a high speed while kids were playing nearby. The blades could easy inflict a mortal wound, even decapitate a child. Two years ago, a guy was flying his helicopter in a park off the Belt Parkway and was struck by the blades and he bled to death.
A few days later, being concerned and confused, I asked a PEP officer and even she was not sure, so I wrote to the Parks commissioner and received a nice letter back informing me that they are not permitted to be used anywhere in a park – only in designated areas. They are also going to notify all personnel of the rules.
Fast forward to a nice fall day in Juniper Park near the Pullis Cemetery when my niece was walking with her babies in a carriage. There were two drones flying around, so she left the park.
At the US Open this year, a drone crashed into the seats of the stadium and thankfully no one was hurt. The owner is a teacher and he was fined and sentenced to do community service.
If you see any illegal drone activity in a NYC park, call 311 or Parks Enforcement at (646) 613-1200.