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Can You Fly a Drone in Times Square?

Times Square is considered the heart of New York City. It’s where the big, glittering ball drops every New Year’s Eve, but it attracts massive crowds throughout the year.

The authentic, dazzling views here have you itching to fly your drone.

Can you fly a drone in Times Square?

You cannot fly a drone in Times Square or elsewhere in New York City, whether you’re a recreational or commercial pilot. Citizens are encouraged to call the police if they see someone violating this law.

In today’s article, we’ll further explain the rules for using a drone in Times Square and what the ramifications are.

We’ll also recommend other spots to launch a drone instead, so don’t miss it!

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Can you fly a drone in Times Square?

Every year, Times Square draws about 50 million people, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions on the planet.

People want to see the oversized LED billboards, supersized shops, and Rockefeller Center.

If you had hoped to capture the electricity of Times Square on your drone camera, you’ll be disappointed to learn that drones are prohibited. Even if your drone doesn’t have a camera, you still can’t launch it.

It’s not just Times Square, either. New York City has a whole bans drones. You can fly your drone elsewhere in New York State, but the city itself is a no-fly zone.

Here’s why.

Very crowded

The FAA requires drone pilots to keep a reasonable distance from large crowds.

Usually, when you’re out somewhere crowded, you can get some reprieve if you venture far enough away from the crowded area. There, you can use your drone more comfortably.

In Times Square, there is no reprieve. It doesn’t matter the time of day, whether it’s the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday or late at night. You can wind your watch to the fact that people will be in Times Square.

New York might not be nicknamed the City That Never Sleeps, but the shoe still fits. NYC as a whole is rarely bereft of foot traffic.

When you’re dodging and weaving your drone in tight crowds, the risk of something going wrong increases.

You could crash into someone with your drone, possibly causing serious injury (have you ever been cut with a drone propeller before? It’s very painful!).

At the very least, the crowd could perceive the presence of your drone as a nuisance. You could also violate privacy laws if you fly your drone too close, so a myriad of disastrous consequences could transpire!

Constant traffic

We also have to talk about the FAA’s Operations over Moving Vehicles law. Under that law, you cannot fly your drone when vehicles are on the road.

Well, good luck with that if you’re in Times Square (and New York City as a whole).

For as many people as you see walking the streets, you’ll see those streets congested with vehicles, at least in the parts of Times Square that allow vehicles.

It’s mostly taxis, but it doesn’t matter. The Operations over Moving Vehicles law doesn’t discriminate by vehicle type.

Even if the taxis are caught in a traffic standstill, which happens frequently, since the vehicles are in gear, they’re still considered moving, so it’d still be illegal if you flew over them.

You can use your drone around a stationary vehicle if the people inside agree to partake in your drone project, but it’s hard to find stationary vehicles in the city!

High risk of property damage

Finally, if you were allowed to use your drone in Times Square, you’d do so with the risk of property damage.

New York City is a rather congested place, but Times Square condenses that down further. Tall buildings that kiss the sky surround you at every turn, and there’s all those bright, shining LED billboards on top of that.

It’s very easy for a drone pilot to become disoriented and possibly crash their UAV into a building, a vehicle, or even a person.

You’re not supposed to fly a drone higher than 400 feet, but amidst all the beauty of Times Square, sometimes it’s hard not to do that either.

If your drone flies out of range, no good comes of it. You could lose your UAV if it gets far enough away. Your drone could also crash, and you know how injurious that can be!

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What happens if you fly a drone in Times Square?

So what happens if you were to fly a drone in Times Square, anyway?

The New York City police department requests that any citizens or visitors who see a drone operating anywhere in the city–including Times Square–dial 911 and report the incident.

According to The Law Firm of Andrew M. Stengel[1], you could face first-degree or second-degree reckless endangerment charges for using your drone in the city.

Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree is a Class A misdemeanor. If you’re charged with this crime, you used your drone dangerously in a way that increases serious injury risk.

No one has to incur an injury for you to be charged; just using your drone in the presence of people creates the risk of injury.

In New York, a Class A misdemeanor includes a fine of at least $1,000 (it could be double that or more) and up to a year behind bars.

According to Stengel, Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree is “acting with depraved indifference to human life and engaging in conduct that creates a grave risk of death to another.”

Due to the severity of the charge, it takes an especially egregious instance of drone usage for it to stick.

Even when two drone pilots flew their UAVs near an NYPD helicopter in 2014, their Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree sentence was ultimately reduced.

That doesn’t mean you couldn’t get slapped with a Class D misdemeanor depending on how you use your drone. That could mean spending seven years behind bars.

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7 places in New York to fly a drone instead

While it’s a bummer that you can’t fly a drone in Times Square, don’t despair.

New York has plenty of other excellent places to launch a drone, even if they carry very different atmospheres from the city center.

Let’s take a look!

1. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

In Queens, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, aka Flushing Meadows Park, is an 897-acre park and the fourth biggest of its kind in New York City.

The park features Flushing River and Creek, Meadow Lake, and Willow Lake.

Plan to keep your distance from the Queens Museum; the Queens Zoo; the New York State Pavilion, Queens Theater; and the Flushing Meadows Carousel.

2. Calvert Vaux Park

Over in Brooklyn, Calvert Vaux Park has approximately 85.53 acres of greenspace to explore and enjoy. The park has been around since 1934 and is named in honor of a landscape architect.

The park features the Six Diamonds shoreline, a playground, the Calvert Vaux Cove inlet, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, a bike path, several football fields, and the Coney Island Creek.

3. Glen Cove

The Long Island city of Glen Cove features parks, beaches, and incredible architecture (such as mansions) that you can soar over with your drone camera on.

Pilots especially like the Glen Cove Waterfront Park, which offers waterfront views, picnicking areas, bike paths, fishing, and hiking. Just make sure to keep a reasonable distance from crowds when enjoying this park.

4. Tanner Park

Babylon’s Tanner Park is a bay beach that features Wi-Fi (for quickly uploading your drone footage after you’re done taking it), a fishing pier, a playground, and an interactive spray park for the kiddos.

You must have a resident recreation permit to access the park, as Tanner Park limits access to only area residents.

5. Marine Park

Marine Park is both a neighborhood in Brooklyn and a park in Brooklyn. While you can use your drone in either, we’d recommend the park more so than the neighborhood for your purposes.

Across 798 acres, you can enjoy recreational outdoor entertainment. Marine Park features the Salt Marsh Nature Center with oyster toadfish, horseshoe crabs, cottontail rabbits, and marsh birds.

While you’ll be unable to access the nature center with your drone, you can always venture through the sports fields (when they’re empty) or the nearly one-mile-long running path, which was once a burial ground for the Keshawchqueren people.

6. New Rochelle

The Westchester County city of New Rochelle offers a city-like atmosphere that maybe isn’t quite the same as New York City but will have to suffice.

The city has parks such as Hudson Park and Davenport Park, stunning waterfront views, and appealing views that will delight you if you spend an afternoon here.

7. Tarrytown

We’d also suggest a day in Tarrytown, a Westchester County village that’s only 25 miles from Midtown Manhattan. You can enjoy unfettered views of the Hudson River here and plenty of greenspace!

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Times Square in New York City prohibits drone usage, just as the rest of the city does.

If you try to use a drone in Times Square, someone will undoubtedly see you and call the police. You could then receive a Class A misdemeanor or even a Class D misdemeanor in rare but serious instances.

With so many other great places in New York State to fly, you shouldn’t mind letting Times Square go.

References:
1. The Law Firm of Andrew M. Stengel (link)