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My first run in with the law over my Phantom
4342 25 2015-3-9
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TSP181
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This weekend the winter weather broke and I went to fly!  I wanted to fly in an open space with no one else around and maybe something interesting to photograph.  I went to a near state park/lake in Ohio.  The site I selected was a huge spillway near the lake with nobody around.  I parked at the lot near the open space and started flying.  All LOS and not over 100' in altitude.  The interaction with the officer really wasn't a big deal but here is what happened.

As I was flying, a Ranger pulled in and asked what I was doing.  I didn't think what I was doing was a problem so I replied,  "Flying my Quadcopter".   He said, "You can't do that here".   I said, "Oh, I'm sorry.  I'll land it"  Which I did.  He was really pretty cool about the whole thing and was interested in the Phantom.  I showed it to him and as I put it in it’s case.  I told him that I thought it was okay to fly in a state park.  He said actually this was Army Corp of Engineers (ACoE) land and he worked for them.  He said the state park was contained within it so they had jurisdiction.   I told him I wasn't aware it wasn't okay to fly on ACoE land and that I knew it wasn't okay at national parks but this was news to me.   He said, “The government doesn't know what to do so they just stop it until they figure it out".  He told me about someone flying on a trail and having to kick them out of the park and about the requirement for a permit to shoot nature photos or even a wedding on ACoE land.  He also said, the park should use drones and save money compared to what they have to spend on helicopters to get aerial photography.   I packed up my Phantom and we both left cordially with no trouble or tickets and the name and contact info for the ACoE park manager who can give me more infomation.

I plan to do a bit of research and see what the ACoE says at a national level.  They’re not the National Park Service who we know has banned us.  If I find more information from the ACoE at the national level, I plan to have a conversation with the local park manager and see if we can’t work something out.  

Anyway, any info you may have about flying on the ACoE land/water I’d appreciate if you’d share it.  Lastly, when you do interact with a police officer be polite and respectful of their position and unless you happen to run into a true a$$hole of an officer, you’ll probably be okay.


2015-3-9
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gnixon2015
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thx for sharing this
2015-3-9
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JATO
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The ACoE has some weird rules about their property. For instance if you a licensed to carry a firearm (concealed or open) you can carry in a national park, as they generally follow state rules. Federal law prohibits firearms in certain park facilities and buildings like the visitor center, but if the land is controlled by the ACoE no Firearms allowed anywhere, peroid.

As far a drones in parks the county I live in has a no RC anything rule in any county park. That includes cars, boats and aircraft.
2015-3-9
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TSP181
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JATO Posted at 2015-3-10 09:48
The ACoE has some weird rules about their property. For instance if you a licensed to carry a firear ...

He actually suggested a couple of nearby parks that would probably let me fly.
2015-3-9
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gnixon2015
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very interesting jato.  it is odd the variation and inconsistency across regions and governing bodies.

where i live, every park (city/county) that i have been to has no restrictions on RC craft.  i checked both signage at the park and the full online official rules for our park system on the web.  the web obviously had TONS of info (frankly more than i thought was even there) and while it went into every nitty gritty thing you cannot do, RC was nowhere in the document.  i still thought it wasnt going to bode well for me, and when i went a police officer came walking up.  

i thought, here we go.  turns out he was just curious and thought it was the coolest thing he'd seen all week.  he hung out while i flew, left and went to his car, pulled it around and parked nearby and watched me burn 3 full batteries.  suffice it to say, i was floored.  

one thing i will say, however.  when i go flying in public, i err so far on the 'being polite, avoiding areas where people are, keeping the buzzing out of the way of folks just trying to enjoy themselves, etc' side of the fence it is ridonculous.  the way i look at it, someone has to be out there showing the public how you SHOULD fly a drone, so we can counter all the jackholes we see and hear about in posted articles around here every day.  i find behaving this way seems to bring better responses from authority and the general public overall.

if i couldnt fly in local parks (topped with not being able to fly in state parks or private property or landmarks or pretty much anwhere interesting) then i would be left with nowhere i WANT to fly lol.  i'd probably regret even having it sitting here just dying to fly.  hope it doesnt get to that point but im doing my part to show people respectful piloting.
2015-3-9
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JATO
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It's hard to find places. I fly at my son's high school on the weekends. I have a had a few people ask at the drone even by a few people that work at the school, but so far no one as ask me to leave.
2015-3-9
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JATO
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TSP181 Posted at 2015-3-10 09:58
He actually suggested a couple of nearby parks that would probably let me fly.

I ask the cops if it was OK to fly in the country park the first time i was there (they were answering a call). The cop said he didn't know of any local ordinance against it  but ask it it was gas powered. When I said no he said it should be alright. Then he said let ask this guy who was a park employee. That guy said not no in any country park and it as on some of the signs in really small fonts. He said people, cars and light poles had been hit so the county banned it in all the county parks.
2015-3-9
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gary.ok
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I hunt on corps land, and before I bought the drone I did a lot of research on this very subject because I wanted to use it to scout. There is no such restriction that I can find anywhere. I asked our corps central office and they had nothing. As far as I can see it's totally legal to fly on corps of engineering controlled property. Sounds like you found a cop making it up as he goes along.  I wouldn't suggest being disrespectful or uncooperative with the officer, but there is nothing wrong with pushing back a little.  
2015-3-9
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JATO
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Gary,
I have to retract my statement on guns. The gun ban was for guns not used for hunting, but there was a ban on carrying firearms for protection concealed or open) even if you were licensed. I also see that ban was overturned in Oct.

2015-3-9
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leostrat_54
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I recently was visiting a Federal Wildlife Reserve near Needles, Ca. and met a Federal game warden / park ranger.  I asked him if I could film there with my Phantom.  He said that all federally owned property is currently under review and that there was no UAV filming allowed.  The day before I went through the Painted Desert and there were so many places that a UAV would have been useful.  I wonder if the National Park system could do a lottery/permit system like they do with certain kinds of hunting permits that would allow limited but controlled access to federal parks.  I would certainly be interested in a program like that.  That way if they wanted to limit access to say 2 to 5 operators per day (with appropriate guidelines and perhaps filming early or late when least impacting other guests) at least we would have a chance to film there.
2015-3-10
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tonyray955
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Last summer I was at an RV park with my MJX f45 and a lady walked up to me and said you can't fly those things in here. I said what things she said those drones. I said it's not a drone it's a RC helicopter and she said you know what I mean it's illegal to film people without their permission. I said it doesn't have a camera on it. She said I'm going to tell the manager. The manager came and said sorry about her she is a busy body and is in his office all the time complaining about everyone. He told me as long as I was flying safely it was ok.
2015-3-10
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HermosaDrones
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Best to live to fly another day.  I've only had two people who were a-holes about my flying.  One told me he hated the sound just as a helicopter flew over.  Jajaja.  The other was a homeless who walked about 130 yards to come and tell me it was too loud.  If people are nice or are officials i will move to another spot to fly.  I've also had lifeguards who came over and wanted to ask a bazillion questions about it.  I asked one if i could do a follow shot as he drove off on his ATV.  The footage wasn't very good or i would post it.

Live to fly another day.
2015-3-10
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rdc44444
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A couple of weeks ago I flew near a police officer who was standing on the shoulder of the road looking for drivers with expired tags to pull over. I flew my Phantom close but not directly overhead the officer and put on an acrobatic show for him.  Little did he know I was....



2015-3-10
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rdc44444
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Flying within the outer edge of the 15.5 mile Washington D.C. no fly zone .....
2015-3-10
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Friffy1
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National Parks are definitely no-fly zones.  State parks vary.  I think if everybody's polite, it all works out.  Local parks are your best bet I'd say.  I use the local high school football and baseball fields.  They're connected so it's pretty big.  My whole family flies.  We've got 4 quads in all.

Now I haven't tempted fate yet.  But I REALLY want to get some photos/video of Valley Forge National Historical Park.  I live 15 minutes from it.  Even though its name says "National Park" it's officially not.  So, what the heck.  The worst they'll do is ask me to stop.

But the fact is, where ever I am, I always get interested passers by.  People really enjoy watching these things fly.  I bet even park rangers.
2015-3-10
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rdc44444
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I often fly through my neighborhood and I haven't had one person say anything negative to me. Most people watch in awe and will often come up to me and start asking me questions. The other night I had my next door neighbor come up to me and at one point he asked me if I've had any problems with the Home owners association about my drone and I told him "no" and he said "well if you do just let me know and we will put together a petition to fight it" (or something to that effect) ..lol. The media makes us out to all be peeping toms or terrorists up to no good but most people I've encountered are cool with drones. Of course the people who arent happy would probably not confront me and just call the cops or HOA. So far the cops haven't come knocking on my door and the HOA hasn't sent me any nasty letters but eventually Im afraid it will happen.
2015-3-10
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rdc44444
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This is a good source for determining if you could possibly get into trouble. Its probably not all inclusive but its a start...

https://www.mapbox.com/drone/no-fly/

2015-3-10
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TSP181
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rdc44444@hotmai Posted at 2015-3-11 03:25
This is a good source for determining if you could possibly get into trouble. Its probably not all i ...

Not on here.  No ACoE lands that I see.  This appears to be just major airports and national parks.   The small prop FBOs don't show up but I think they still apply as a no fly zone.   I wish they were on there though, it would show there isn't a lot of places to fly where I live.   
2015-3-10
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JATO
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Friffy1 Posted at 2015-3-11 03:08
National Parks are definitely no-fly zones.  State parks vary.  I think if everybody's polite, it al ...

Fritty1,
Be careful. Not sure why you say VFNH Park is not a National Park because the US ParkService says Gov rules apply. But..VFNHP has a remote aircraft clause that allows their use, but you may want to confirm it is still allowed:

" Unmanned Aircraft:  Launching, landing or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Valley Forge National Historical Park is prohibited except as approved in writing by the park superintendent.  


Exception:   The use of model airplanes is restricted to the field (known as the Airplane Field) located on Valley Creek Road (Rte 252) at the park’s Southeast entrance.   All persons using this area for model airplane flight are required to display a membership tag from Valley Forge Signal Seekers or obtain a day use pass from a member of the Valley Forge Signal Seekers.  Day use passes will only be available when a member of the Valley Forge Signal Seekers is present at the field and can confirm the requirements of field use are met by signing and issuing the day pass.  The one-day flight permit is valid only for the day it is issued. Safety rules to govern the daily use of the airplane field have been developed in cooperation with Valley Forge Signal Seekers and have been adopted as regulation for Valley Forge National Historical Park.  This regulation document and the AMA National Model Aircraft Safety code will be posted in the bulletin board located at the field.   Model airplanes are prohibited from flying over the roads or parking areas surrounding the field."


Some people question the legality of not being able to fly a drone in a NP, but I would hate to see youn or anyone be a test case.
link

By the way I used to work for LM near there.
2015-3-10
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Friffy1
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JATO Posted at 2015-3-11 09:28
Fritty1,
Be careful. Not sure why you say VFNH Park is not a National Park because the US ParkServi ...


Thanks!  I say it's not a national park because it's literally not.  Yes, that's its name.  And, yes, it's still run by the National Park Service, but it is not actually a national park.

National Parks
"Other units of the National Park Service are sometimes incorrectly referred to as national parks"

That's a great find on the aircraft clause.  I'm guessing you found that on their website somewhere?

I'm still hoping to get in real quick, get a nice slow pass by the cannons and a couple of forts.  It's usually the least-populated section of the entire park.  It's typically me, my family, and some wildlife in that area late in the afternoons.  It's just so... historic.  I can't resist.  I think (hope?) they'd forgive me one offense if I feign ignorance.

Also...  LM?  I guess you're talking Lower Merion township itself?
2015-3-11
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grangerfx
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This should all resolve itself when drones are, tiny, smart, self-flying, cheap and sold in the hundreds of millions. At that point the political pressure to allow their use will be enormous. Can you imagine if they tried to ban smart phones in national parks today?
2015-3-11
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tonyray955
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I was out flying today in the parking lot behind where I work no cars anywhere on the lot a lady come walking up with her kid he like maybe 6 years old and asks if I would let him fly it I said I have well over $1000.00 into it she said I didn't ask how much it cost. So I said no. She said wow that was really friendly. I didn't think about tell after she walked away I should have said were not friends.
2015-3-14
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2015-3-14
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JATO
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Friffy1 Posted at 2015-3-11 20:34
Thanks!  I say it's not a national park because it's literally not.  Yes, that's its name.  And, y ...

Friffy,
The info came from the Superintendent's Compendium - National Park Service for FVNP. The model aircraft stuff is on page for.

LM = Lockheed Martin.
2015-3-15
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Friffy1
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JATO Posted at 2015-3-15 19:24
Friffy,
The info came from the Superintendent's Compendium - National Park Service for FVNP. The mo ...

Cool.  Thanks!
2015-3-16
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DJI User598
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Today I stopped at the COE and asked if I could fly my Phantom at the parks around the lake that the COE managed. The answer was no. Although billed as state parks and lands the CoE manage them as well as the lake and damn. The CoE is a federal agency and thus the ban on all Federal property extends to CoE managed land, waters, and such. The Ranger I spoke to was very nice and polite and actually told me he hopes the law changes. He pulled out a brochure and handed it to me... here is a quote "The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), also sometimes shortened to CoE, is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command made up of some 37,000 civilian and military personnel, making it one of the world's largest public engineering, design, and construction management ..."
2017-9-7
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