You probably don’t need to look at the airspace map over New York City to guess: there are very few places where it looks like you can fly in Manhattan proper without LAANC waivers. But that’s not the end of it! A 1948 city law (written more for flying saucers than for drones) prohibits taking off or landing outside of airports or heliports. Basically any area that isn’t designated by the Department of Transportation or the Port Authority. That puts trained commercial UAV pilots in a bit of a bind and — according to some — leaves the only incentives open for those ignorant, or uncaring, of UAV flight protocol.
While there is a bill with major corporate backing from folks like the MPAA and Uber circulating proposed updates to the city’s restrictive UAV regulations, the legislation is opposed by the NYPD and is in purgatory since 2018. So yeah, not banking on it.
Right now the FAA will approve flights in the city by registered drone pilots within relatively strict limits but there is a legal gray area…
As Rita Moreno sings emphatically in West Side Story’s “America”, “I like the island Manhattan!”
Voilà, charter boats! The former landfill turned outdoor sculpture garden, mall, and boardwalk — Battery Park can be shot directly over the Hudson River, without flying directly over people, and sits outside of controlled airspace. (Though keep in mind that when flying a drone near a heliport, as in this case, you are required to notify them of your planned operations.) Normally tourist-y to the extreme, on this wintery 2021 day, Battery Park was near-deserted. The kind of emptiness in a city of 8.5 million that feels at once thrilling and ominous. One I was proud to capture.