Liberty State Park is one of nearly 50 state parks throughout New Jersey. Within sight is Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the glimmering Manhattan skyline, so naturally, it sounds like an epic place to fly your drone.
Can you fly a drone in Liberty State Park?
Drones are prohibited at Liberty State Park just as they are in all of New Jersey’s state forests and state parks. That rule was established and enforced by the New Jersey State Park Service.
We’ll talk further about the rules on flying drones in Liberty State Park ahead, including whether you’re allowed to fly just outside the park and what punishments you may face if you violate the rules.
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Can you fly a drone in Liberty State Park?
The northern New Jersey attraction Liberty State Park is 1,122 acres of open land, and, as mentioned in the intro, the views are unparalleled.
Unfortunately, it’s not a place you can visit with your drone.
The New Jersey State Park Service with the Division of Parks and Forestry laid the hammer down in their 2015 New Jersey State Park Policy, which we wrote about in our post on drone laws in New Jersey.
» MORE: Drone Laws in New Jersey
That policy makes it quite clear that in 90 percent of cases, drones are prohibited from flying around any New Jersey State Park, including Liberty State Park.
You would need permission from an Assistant Director to fly, and that permission appears to only be granted for “search and rescue organizations, fire fighting and law enforcement agencies, other governmental and first-response agencies.”
In some cases, accredited universities are also granted the rights to fly around New Jersey State Parks (possibly including Liberty State Park) for educational purposes.
If you’re an agency pilot, then you have a shot at flying around Liberty State park, but even then, it wouldn’t be a joyride. You’d be doing it for work, and for quite important work at that!
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As for recreational or commercial pilots, the only way that would be possible if you were issued a permit, and that seems highly, highly unlikely.
Why did the New Jersey State Park Service put the kibosh on drone pilots? In this case, it seems the law was passed to prevent incidents such as collisions, but the peace of the people and the betterment of the park are other viable reasons.
By the way, if you’re looking for loopholes, there really aren’t any. Even if you fly a toy drone that weighs under 250 grams, you’re still not allowed to fly.
Can you fly a drone just outside of Liberty State Park?
While the New Jersey State Park Service has jurisdiction over 452,000 acres across the entire state, those are only recreation areas, historic sites, forests, and parks.
What if you fly your drone just outside of Liberty State Park on lands not overseen by the New Jersey State Park Service?
Well, before you get too excited about that idea, let’s take a look at what kind of land is really around Liberty State Park.
Besides the park itself, you’ve got the Liberty State Park Walk-way, the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, the Ellis Island Hospital, the Interpretive Center, and the Liberty Science Center.
Besides the walkway, all are indoor locations where drones are definitely not permitted.
As for whether you could operate your drone around the Liberty State Park Walk-way, we were unable to find any concrete information. It’s very likely the walkway still constitutes part of the park, in which case, you’d be forbidden from taking flight.
If you were to go further out still, you’d be flying over the water toward the Statue of Liberty, and if you somehow could continue out further from there, you’d still be over water but crossing into New York state lines.
We’ve discussed recently that flying in or around the Statue of Liberty, be it from the New Jersey or New York side, is illegal.
You’re also supposed to keep your drone within your visual line of sight, and if you were taking off from a parking lot near Liberty State Park, there’s no way you could visually track your drone all the way into New York.
The areas around Liberty State Park are not suitable for drone pilots either.
What happens if you get caught flying a drone in Liberty State Park?
If you don’t live in town, it’s easy enough to make mistakes and sometimes fly your drone where it’s not supposed to be. Let’s say that, completely accidentally, you flew your drone into Liberty State Park. What would happen?
A New Jersey State Park Service representative or ranger would spot the illicit behavior, or perhaps a citizen would, and something would be said about it. Then the park representative would find you and ask you to stop flying your drone.
A verbal warning would be the best-case scenario, by the way. You could be fined for disobeying New Jersey’s state park drone laws, and the fine can be several hundred dollars at times.
You could even have your drone confiscated in some instances, although this would probably only happen if you were a repeat offender.
Whether this is your first drone crime or you have a few you’ve racked up, you will have to appear in court after being cited.
As you plead your case in front of a judge, you may be issued additional fines in some instances. The judge will also decide if the crime is worth jailtime, which yes, drone pilots are sometimes jailed for flying in illegal places!
How long would have you to spend behind bars? Usually, it’s not a significant amount of time, maybe only 30 days, but sentences can certainly be longer.
Even 30 days is a lot of time to spend in jail. That would be very hard to explain to your employer!
5 places in New Jersey to fly your drone if you want city views
Learning that you can’t operate your drone in Liberty State Park certainly puts you between a rock and a hard place.
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You’re not allowed to legally fly a drone in New York City, and Liberty State Park has such excellent views of the Manhattan skyline without having to cross over into New York.
Fortunately, if you want city skyscapes, Liberty State Park is far from your only option in New Jersey. Try flying in these legal drone zones instead!
1. Jersey City
As we discussed in this post, Jersey City is one of the most beloved parts of New Jersey for drone pilots who want that NYC feel but without the hassle. Jersey City is like a miniaturized New York, and its skyline is worth spending time capturing footage of.
» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Jersey City?
Of course, if you’ve got your heart set on taking shots of beautiful NYC, you won’t be disappointed. Throughout other parts of Jersey City, you can get clear vantage points of the Manhattan skyline, so have fun!
Oh, and the best part? Liberty State Park is in Jersey City, so you don’t have to go far to get the drone footage you want.
» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Liberty State Park?
Outside of Jersey City, you can also explore Hoboken by drone.
» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Hoboken, NJ?
Hoboken is another New Jersey city that overlooks the Hudson River just like Jersey City. It too is an excellent place to see the Manhattan skyline from within the legal confines of New Jersey.
Although it’s tempting because you’ll be close to the Statue of Liberty, remember that it’s illegal to fly there.
Hoboken has some wonderful parks and waterfront walkways that are worth visiting in their own right, so don’t miss them!
Moving down closer to central New Jersey, Newark is another city that offers exceptional city views if that’s the kind of vibe you’re going for on this latest drone project of yours.
From ground level, you can see Manhattan from parts of Newark, but the day has to be really clear. When you take to the skies with your drone, spotting the city skyline should be even easier.
That said, don’t fly your drone in inclement weather, and yes, fog and strong clouds would be considered inclement weather. You could violate drone laws and you put your UAV at risk as well.
Smack dab in the middle of New Jersey is the state capital of Trenton. You can’t see New York City from Trenton, as it’s about an hour and a half drive and a train ride of about the same length to get between the two cities.
However, Trenton has a lot of city views as well as historical monuments, from the New Jersey State Museum and its old architecture to the 1719 William Trent House Museum, the Patriots Theater, the Trenton Battle Monument, and the New Jersey State Senate.
You’d certainly capture some unique drone footage if flying in Trenton, that’s for certain!
5. Atlantic City
For a different kind of city vibe, there’s Atlantic City. Here, beaches and casinos converge, creating a truly attractive view that’s much coveted among drone pilots.
You will certainly want to steer clear of large crowds when using a drone in Atlantic City, so don’t chance flying on the busy boardwalks. Keep your drone within your visual line of sight and do not fly higher than 400 feet!
Liberty State Park in Jersey City is one of almost 50 state parks in New Jersey. All prohibit drones, and that’s the case at Liberty as well.
Since the New Jersey State Park Service oversees the state parks and it’s a federal agency, it’s best not to take the risk.
If you’re really chasing after New York City skyline views, you can get them in Newark, elsewhere in Jersey City, and in Hoboken. Make sure you follow all FAA guidelines and New Jersey state and local laws when using your UAV.